The mainland has apparently revived its experimental township elections - although with more stringent controls - about a year after a controversial ballot in Sichuan province unnerved officials. Xinhua yesterday hailed a successful township election in Xincai county, central Henan province, as taking the lead in such experiments. An official at the county's organisation department yesterday confirmed that two elections for party secretaries were held between December 7 and 20 last year in Fogesi township and Shengzhao village. 'In accordance to the instructions of the state and the lessons we learned from other places, we decided to hold these two elections as an experiment,' the official said. Although village elections are common, township elections have slowed, if not stopped, since a secret ballot in Buyung county, central Sichuan, on December 31, 1998. The now-famous election drew so much attention for vote-buying that the authorities later ordered a media blackout and accepted the results reluctantly. Since then official media have rarely reported on township elections, although two low-profile polls were held last year in Shanxi and Shenzhen provinces, according to a research report by the US-based Carter Centre. In what was described by Xinhua yesterday as the first of its kind in China, the Xincai county used a two-tier ballot system in the December election. The candidates were nominated by citizens over 18 and then voted for by township people's congress deputies, the organisation department official said. In the case of Fogesi, eight candidates were nominated, while seven were nominated in Shengzhao. In both cases, the incumbent deputy party secretary won the top post. Senior leaders have repeatedly said China will not follow Western-style democracy and will develop its own form of government.