Congress delegates still to be elected
Preparations for the upcoming 18th party congress are not running as smoothly as portrayed by state media, with a dozen constituencies, including Chongqing and Beijing, yet to hold their own party congress to elect their representatives.
The People's Daily, the party mouthpiece, ran an article on its front page on Thursday, claiming that more than two-thirds of electoral units had 'elected' their delegates.
Of 40 constituencies for the party congress, the article said, 28 - four central ones and 24 at the provincial level - had finished their elections. 'A total of 2,270 delegates, elected from 80 million party members nationwide, will attend the 2012 national congress, 50 more than those at the 17th congress five years ago,' it read.
The article depicted the upcoming meeting as a focus of worldwide attention. It will be held in the second half of this year but no clue was given as to the month. It discounted overseas speculation it might be held as late as January due to a power struggle within the party's top echelon triggered by the downfall of former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai in March.
Two provincial-level municipalities have delayed holding their regional congresses, which means more than 100 delegates will be confirmed later than scheduled.
Zhang Dejiang, the Chongqing party secretary appointed after Bo's downfall, was quoted by the Chongqing Daily as having told high-ranking officials in the city in mid-March the municipal party congress would be held in May.
In mid-May, however, Zhou Yong, Chongqing's deputy propaganda chief, told the South China Morning Post it would be held in June, while saying there was 'no special reason for the delay'.
A source familiar with the municipal government said jockeying among different political factions over who should succeed Zhang as party boss, a position almost certain to secure its holder a seat on the powerful Politburo committee, was one of main reasons for the postponement.
Beijing has also failed to hold its party congress on schedule, without publicly saying why.
Time is running out for both municipalities. According to the People's Daily, all 2,270 delegates should be 'elected' no later than the end of June. It's article praised the election procedures as more democratic than before, but analysts said this was mere propaganda.
For the upcoming congress, the number of candidates in many constituencies had exceeded the number of delegate seats by more than 15 per cent, the article said.
Analysts downplayed the importance of the increase, however, saying the same achievement had been made at the congress five years ago.
In a bid to widen representation, the article said, the party had pledged to include more delegates from grass-roots organisations, including migrant workers.
But little headway has been made. The party set a quota for grass-roots delegates of 32 per cent for all constituencies, a negligible improvement on five years ago when the figure stood at 30 per cent, although Guangdong's quota is 35 per cent, and Jiangsu's 39 per cent.
Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said he had not seen any progress in so-called intra-party democracy over the years.
'About 400 senior party members have participated in the pre-election of the party's 25-strong Politburo, compared to slightly more than 300 at the 17th congress,' Liu said, referring to a pre-election poll carried out among central committee members and party elders.
'[But] far from being the final decision on the composition of the Politburo which will rule China for another decade, the result serves as nothing more than a reference point for the top leaders when they make their decision on the Politburo's formulation. I hardly call such an arrangement progress.'