Carter Center Update
Carter Center furthers
village elections in China
A four-person Carter Center delegation will be in China June 21 through
July 16 to help establish a data collection system that will improve the
government's ability to conduct village elections and standardize election
A result of a landmark agreement signed last March between the People's
Republic of China and The Carter Center, the project includes a second delegation
traveling to China in August, as well as two visits to Atlanta from Chinese
leaders, the first scheduled for July 19-23.
"Since 1987 the Organic Law on Village Elections-an outgrowth of
reforms by the late Premier Deng Xiaoping-has mandated the basic elements
of democratic elections, such as a secret ballot, freedom of choice, a public
count and regular elections," said Robert Pastor, director of The Carter
Center's China Project. "But no one knows how many villages are following
the rules. This new data system will answer that question."
The task of the Carter Center delegation currently in China is to assist
the country's Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) with installing the first
elements of the data system in nine counties in Fujian, Hunan and Jilin
provinces. Village officials will record on standard survey forms election
results and their assessments of the process and forward that data to the
county level, where it will be entered into computers equipped with specially
In this initial phase, the MCA will compile data from the three provinces
and, eventually, from all 930,000 Chinese villages, permitting officials
to determine where elections have been held democratically and competitively,
as law requires, and where they have been flawed. The data also will provide
a basis for discussion between The Carter Center and the MCA about how the
system may be improved. Additionally, The Carter Center hopes to implement
an intensive voter education project to help Chinese villagers understand
why their ballots count and why they need to vote in private.
A high-level Chinese delegation from the MCA and the three pilot provinces
will observe Georgia's primary elections during their visit to Atlanta this
July. They will meet with county and state election officials and observe
the counting process by state officials and the media. On July 22 these
dignitaries will attend a forum at The Carter Center to share feedback about
what they learned.
The first large Carter Center delegation to observe Chinese elections
was in March 1997 in the Fujian and Hebei provinces, at the invitation of
the Chinese government. A second Center delegation returned in March of
this year to observe elections in nine villages in Jilin and Liaoning provinces,
at which time the data collection project was agreed upon.
"Much remains to be done for village elections in China to become
a firm foundation for grassroots democracy," said Pastor, who has led
each of the Center's delegations to China. "But we are impressed by
the villagers' determination to have free and fair elections and by the
government's commitment to improve the process to assure genuine competition."
"We are very excited about the village elections project,"
President Jimmy Carter said recently. "We hope the cooperation we develop
with the Chinese government will permit improvements of the electoral process
at the village level and serve as a foundation on which to construct direct
elections at higher levels of government in the future."
Ann Carney is assistant director of public information at The Carter
to June 22, 1998 Contents Page