Party bosses in Sichuan sighed with relief after Beijing indicated recognition of results from the first direct election by secret ballot to be held in a township. The official China Central Television (CCTV) on Friday broadcast 15 minutes of election footage and comment on the poll. The footage, part of the Golden Land show on Channel Two, was transmitted four weeks after the State Press and Publication Administration and propaganda departments ordered a media blackout on the election, in Sichuan's Buyun township, in a bid to prevent other localities from following the bold experiment, which they fear might create instability. CCTV producers said senior station officials consulted the Propaganda and Organisation departments of the Central Committee and gained special approval to show the programme. The election was organised by reform-minded officials without central approval. About 6,200 voters in the 11 villages that make up the township voted on December 31 for their own leader. The televised piece did not include direct official comment from any leaders, but a researcher of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress was interviewed. 'Though the election did not abide by the current regulations and political system, it reflected a positive direction of rural democracy,' the researcher was quoted as saying. His words were somewhat toned down compared to an earlier commentary by the Legal Daily on January 19 which branded the poll illegal and a violation of the constitution. Beijing sources said senior party members were split regarding the election. Some were in favour of recognising the result, though the majority agreed the silent approval should not send a message that the central authorities would permit the experiment to be extended to other townships. The mainland has held direct elections for village chiefs in about half of its one million villages since the late 1980s in an effort to let peasants vent their discontent by choosing their own officials. Never before, however, has it experimented with direct voting in the 45,000 townships. Township chiefs are supposed to be appointed by local Communist Party officials and approved by county people's congresses.