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Democracy in China

I’ve often said that the Chinese people wouldn’t know what to do with a vote, since the vast majority of them (in Beijing, at least) seem to have problems operating a subway ticket machine, but the news wires are abuzz with a village election in…Wukan.

Malcolm Moore at The Telegraph, as well as China Digital Times have weighed in with coverage of the first free and open democratic election in China since, er, forever.

Even though the elections were only a prelimiary round of voting ahead of the main even in March, everything – bar a “scuffle” between reporters from Hong Kong – went as smoothing as could have been expected.

“We had to make a big thing, a big show, out of it to underline its importance and to guarantee that it was all fair and transparent,” said Yang Semao, one of the chief organisers.

“Wukan has been in the dark for so many years; its elections always manipulated. It is the first time we have done this so we want to do a good job,” he added. In the past few days, several academics and students have also arrived in Wukan, partly to observe the proceedings, and partly to offer advice to the villagers.

“This is very meaningful,” said Chen Liangshan, 61, who used to work in one of the village’s temples. “I have already got the list of people I will vote for in my mind. I am glad to get the chance to choose people who will actually do something. This is the first time we have ever seen a ballot and we are excited about it.”

Mr Chen filled in his ballot, a sheet of A4 paper, at a table covered by a bright red tablecloth and deposited it in one of seven shiny aluminium ballot boxes. According to an official press release, he was one of 7688 eligible voters, with 1043 voting by proxy.

The BBC has a short photostory on voting in the village, and blogosphere analysis from the WSJ.

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