The Diplomat’s Mu Chunshan paid a visit to a Beijing polling station this week for a Municipal People’s Congress election and, as a registered voter, witnessed China’s democratic process first-hand:
An elderly woman handed me a purple voting slip. She pointed out the different candidates – one was a factory owner, one was a district head, and the other was an imam from a nearby mosque. She made some helpful “suggestions” on who I should vote for, specifically recommending those from the previous administration.
I decided to ask her some questions, including why I should vote for those elected in the previous election? She didn’t seem impressed, and asked why I had so many questions.
When I got home, I wondered whether every polling station was like mine. Certainly I don’t doubt there’s plenty of enthusiasm elsewhere, just as there was at my local voting hall, where I saw people arriving in wheelchairs, despite the cool temperatures.
But having experienced the voting process first hand, there are clearly some issues that need to be addressed to ensure successful elections in the future. For a start, most polling stations are only open during regular working hours, and no holiday was called to make it easier for working people to vote. Also, no one really knows anything about the candidates. Aside from their names, ages, sex and occupations, I knew little about who I could vote for.
While convenient technicalities have frustrated candidates and voters across China this election season, Mu managed to successfully re-register at the polling station despite his already-existing registration not appearing on the list.
For more on local elections in China, see CDT coverage of the boom in independent “citizen candidates” this year, the challenges they face and the use of social media to advance their campaigns,