Fledgling democracy in election for mayor
Candidates were allowed to nominate themselves for the poll in Jintan
In a first for a mainland city, candidates were allowed to nominate themselves to serve as mayor of the eastern city of Jintan, a move officials claimed was a small step towards democratic elections.
The city allowed 'qualified' candidates to put their own names forward for the job of mayor, although authorities still limited the field to government officials, state media and officials said.
Some 482 candidates working at all levels of government put forward their names.
'This ought to be a first for Jiangsu province, and perhaps even the nation,' said a spokesman for Changzhou, which oversees nearby Jintan, located about 60km southeast of the provincial capital Nanjing.
The winning candidate, Wu Shaodong, was previously vice-mayor of Jintan. The 38-year-old held various government posts in Changzhou before he was transferred to Jintan.
State media said this marked the first time that a city in Jiangsu had 'publicly nominated and publicly selected' mayoral candidates.
However, the Communist Party and the provincial government still had the final say and the candidates were not directly elected by the public.
The city narrowed the field from seven, to three and finally to just two candidates, who were then put to the local party municipal committee for approval. The selection process was based on candidates' written reports and answers in interviews.
The final choice, after approval by the provincial government, was confirmed by the local legislature this month.
Local legislatures are meeting in the run-up to the annual gathering of the National People's Congress in March. Some mainland academics have criticised the legislature as a 'rubber stamp' although the body has started to flex its muscle in recent years.
The Changzhou spokesman declined to say what qualifications were needed for the mayor's post. 'Not any common person can nominate himself,' he said by telephone from Changzhou.
Mr Wu could not be reached for comment.
Jintan's party secretary Xu Huizhong said: 'This is a first for Changzhou and the whole nation. This is a new attempt to deepen reform of the personnel system for officials.'
Western analysts are waiting to see if the administration of President Hu Jintao might introduce any steps towards political reform or greater democracy to the mainland's party-controlled government.
In Beijing this month, voters elected neighbourhood delegates for district and county-level legislatures. Although some independents ran in the election, few were winners in a field which was dominated by candidates backed by work units or local party branches.