Xinhua News Agency

Candidate cull 'sign of progress'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 October, 2007, 12:00am

Number of hopefuls for top committee cut 8pc ahead of vote today

The number of candidates for membership of the Communist Party's powerful Central Committee was winnowed down at yesterday's primary elections.

The formal vote will be taken at the concluding session of the party's 17th National Congress today.

At least 8 per cent of nominees were eliminated in the first-round elections for membership and alternate membership of the committee and membership of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, Xinhua said.

The discipline inspection body is the party's anti-graft organ.

It also announced - for the first time - that the country's new top leadership would meet the press tomorrow following the first plenum, at which the new Central Committee will elect the Politburo and its standing committee, the apex of power in mainland politics.

Competitive margins in the primary elections were bigger than those at the party's 16th National Congress five years ago.

Xinhua called it 'a sign of progress for intra-party democracy' - party chief Hu Jintao's drive to enhance the party's capacity to govern by making polls more competitive and members more accountable.

In 2002, 10 nominees lost in the primary vote for candidates of Central Committee membership - 5.1 per cent of those seeking seats. The figure for alternate members was 5.7 per cent in 2002, or nine people.

Another seven, or 5.8 per cent of the nominees, lost in the vote for candidates for membership to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, Xinhua said.

Quoting a scholar from the Central Party School, Cai Changshui , it trumpeted the small progress in the level of competition in the primaries as carrying 'major significance'. Professor Cai said it had become a trend 'to appropriately enhance the competitive degree in party elections and to allow more freedom of choice for delegates if actual circumstances need it'.

The number and names of the candidates approved at the third meeting of the 237-member presidium yesterday morning who will enter today's final vote were unknown, Xinhua said.

The sizes of the new Central Committee, Politburo and its standing committee have also not been made public, illustrating the party's ultimately opaque nature.

The results of the primaries were 'legal and effective', Xinhua said. They were held via secret ballot on Friday afternoon and yesterday morning among more than 2,200 delegates to the party congress.

Analysts said that essentially meant that all the desired candidates got through. Primary elections are conducted to avoid unpleasant outcomes in the final vote, which would be too late to repair.

The party's reformist wing has called for more candidates to compete for Central Committee membership at the party congress.

In 2002, 5 per cent were eliminated in the final vote. Reformists wanted a margin ranging between 10 per cent and 15 per cent.