China held first straw poll to decide top leaders

China’s ruling Communist Party has lifted the lid on the opaque backroom selection of the country’s top leaders, revealing that it had held a straw poll for the first time in May to decide on the membership of its top decision-making body.

The party, which has held power since 1949, has flirted with what it calls intra-party democracy as it strives to maintain its legitimacy in the face of widespread corruption, growing social unrest and rising inequality, even as the world’s second biggest economy bounds ahead.

The party held a meeting of leading cadres in Beijing in May and “democratically recommended” members of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee and the 25-seat Politburo, state news agency Xinhua said late on Thursday, hours after new line-ups for both councils were unveiled.

Such a poll hardly signals a desire for democratic political reforms, but it suggests that the party is trying to increase accountability and subjecting its members to more checks and balances. In previous congresses, held once every five years, voters had little choice: the number of candidates was the same as the number of seats in ballots for Politburo and Standing Committee members. Xinhua said the cadres took into consideration the “party spirit” of candidates, jargon for their loyalty to the party. They also took into account whether the candidates were “just and honest.”

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