Exclusive: China Communists consider internal democratic reform - sources

Tue Nov 6, 2012 11:35am GMT
 

By Benjamin Kang Lim and Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's outgoing leader and his likely successor are pushing the ruling Communist Party to adopt a more democratic process this month for choosing a new leadership, sources said, in an attempt to boost its flagging legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

The extent of the reform would be unprecedented in communist China where elections for the highest tiers of the party, held every five years, have been mainly exercises in rubber-stamping candidates already agreed upon by party power-brokers.

The Communist Party, which has held unbroken power since 1949, is struggling to maintain its popular legitimacy in the face of rising inequality, corruption and environmental degradation, even as the economy continues to bound ahead.

President Hu Jintao and his heir, Xi Jinping, have proposed that the party's 18th Congress, which opens on Thursday, should hold elections for the elite Politburo where for the first time there would be more candidates than available seats, said three sources with ties to the party leadership.

The Politburo, currently 24 members, is the second-highest level of power in China from which the highest decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, is chosen.

They are chosen by the roughly 200 full members of the Central Committee which is in turn chosen by the more than 2,000 delegates at this week's Congress.

Under their proposal, there would be up to 20 percent more candidates than seats in the new Politburo in an election to be held next week, the sources said. It was unclear if competitive voting would also be extended to the Standing Committee.

"Hu wants expanding intra-party democracy to be one of his legacies," one source said, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions for discussing secretive elite politics.   Continued...

A paramilitary policeman stands guard in front of a screen displaying propaganda slogans on Beijing's Tiananmen Square November 6, 2012 as security is tightened around the square and the adjoining Great Hall of the People. Just days before the party's all-important congress opens, China's stability-obsessed rulers are taking no chances and have combed through a list all possible threats, avian or otherwise. The goal is to ensure an image of harmony as President Hu Jintao prepares to transfer power as party leader to anointed successor Vice President Xi Jinping at the congress, which starts Thursday. REUTERS/David Gray
 
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