Buying votes in China village polls 'costing more'

File image of a village in rural China It is only in China's villages that people get a chance to elect their leaders

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In China the cost of bribing a voter in a grassroots election can be more than 100 times greater than it used to be, according to a report in an official newspaper that covers legal affairs.

The Procuratorial Daily cited a probe by provincial prosecutors in Hainan province in the south of the country.

It said the investigation had revealed that elections were marred by allegations of bribery and favouritism.

Some even involved the the use of fortune tellers, the paper said.

Fierce competition

The prosecutors in Hainan found that candidates were most likely to try to bribe voters in villages where there were projects likely to attract investment from property developers or other businesses.

Often, officials profit from corruption when they get the chance to become involved in big deals.

It makes sense, then, that competition for those posts where they might benefit the most is fierce.

The report says villagers told the prosecutors they used to be paid the equivalent of $1.50 (£0.98) for their support at the ballot box.

Today, in some villages, the figure has swelled to $177.

Prosecutors also heard claims that witches or fortune tellers were used in elections - warning people if they did not vote for a particular candidate their families would suffer misfortune.

Village elections began in the late 1980s. They are held every three years. Candidates are selected in a process that some say is not always open and transparent.

Chinese people do not get the chance to elect any officials more senior than village leaders.

Reports of bribery and other problems in so-called grassroots elections surface fairly regularly in the official media.

They help convey the impression that democracy is a flawed concept.

Many Chinese will tell you they do not think voting should be introduced more widely because they do not think it works in poorer rural areas.

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