Reuters International

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has vowed to give no quarter in handling election fraud in the upcoming central Communist Party congress to decide on its future leadership, warning cadres to learn from past political scandals.

"There will be 'zero tolerance' to vote soliciting or vote buying", and "severe" investigations into any malpractice, the party's flagship People's Daily newspaper said in a front-page editorial on Friday.

Party members were told they must learn the "profound lessons" of past vote-rigging scandals, citing a recent case in northern Liaoning province where half of the province's legislators were dismissed due to fraud.

The editorial also pointed to a case in central Hunan province where officials in Hengyang City were found to have bribed 518 lawmakers.

All cases cited involved officials implicated in various forms of vote-buying and rigging in order to secure themselves seats at the local People's Congress, lower level legislatures that generally act as a rubber stamp.

China does not have fully democratic one-person, one-vote elections but has experimented with a selection process at the grassroots for local legislatures, even if most candidates are Communist Party members and there is rarely more than a single candidate for each position available.

The 19th Party Congress, expected to be in autumn, will see Chinese President Xi Jinping look to further cement his grip on power.

The meeting will determine the future make-up of the party's ruling inner core, the 25-member Politburo and the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee.

Xi has moved to reduce the power of the Chinese Communist Party Youth League, a rival political bloc, in order to increase his chances of getting members of his own faction into top positions, sources told Reuters last September.

He has also waged war on corruption since coming to power just over four years ago, promising to stamp out graft at all levels so that the problem does not become an existential threat to the party.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Paul Tait)

Reuters

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