University of Rochester

Political Scientist on Team Observing Elections in China

February 1, 1999

Melanie Manion, associate professor of political science at the University of Rochester and an expert on rural governance in China, joined the first-ever international delegation observing recent township elections for government officials in China.

Though delegation members freely interviewed officials, reviewed electoral records, and visited other villages to observe elections during the Jan. 8 to 13 stay, they reported irregularities in almost all stages of the election process.

"The best measures of good democratic procedure are whether a system offers genuine choice, a transparent nomination process, a secret ballot, and a public count," the delegation stated in a public announcement released in Beijing at the end of the visit. "While we observed active discussion of public issues and some elements of representative responsibility, against these benchmarks the elections fell significantly short."

The delegation's trip came at the invitation of the government of the People's Republic of China to The Carter Center, an international, non-governmental organization established to promote peace and health. It is chaired and founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter. Its members have observed and mediated more than 20 national elections in 15 countries.

Charles E. Costello of The Carter Center led the group as it observed the election of township deputies to the People's Congress in Chongqing municipality in southwest China. Besides Manion and Costello, delegation members were: Merle Goldman, professor of history at Boston University; Robert Pastor, professor of political science at Emory University; Elizabeth Perry, professor of government at Harvard University; Yawei Liu and Tom Crick of The Carter Center; and Pia Pannula, visiting research scholar with The Carter Center.