In a country that can lay claim to counterfeiting just about anything, how does 2.9 billion fake votes strike you?
The poll in question is not a presidential one, but for the right to name a new Chinese national holiday. Still such electoral shenanigans give pause. Even a Robert Mugabe at the very top of his game couldn’t rig this many votes.
According to the Chongqing Evening Post, the controversial online poll was commissioned by the China National Tourism Administration to solicit public opinion on when the holiday should fall and what it should be called. But to its surprise the poll received a staggering 4.2 billion votes. Local media was quick to smell a rat (you’d hope so: China has a population of 1.3 billion of which only 384 million use the internet). So who cast all those extra votes?
The culprits are thought to be local governments who manipulated the online ballot – paying armies of internet users to vote multiple times. Their motive: to steer the poll’s result in their preferred direction.
For example, Jiangsu province – home to the city of Wuxi – has been lobbying for March 29, the day that the famous Ming Dynasty tourist Xu Xiake began his travels.
It’s no coincidence that Xu was born in Wuxi.
Meanwhile Ninghai in Zhejiang suggests May 19; the day when Xu began writing his travel books. Another vested interest? Yes, Xu’s first travel book was about Ninghai.
If the Wuxi-Ninghai spat seems a tad lightweight, consider the more political tiff between the provinces of Hunan and Sichuan. As the birthplace of Chairman Mao, Hunan has thrown its support behind December 26, his birthday.
Sichuan thinks July 5 makes far more sense because Deng Xiaoping (a Sichuanese) made an important speech about tourism that day.
As the two most important figures in China’s Communist Party canon, any public vote involving Mao and Deng as candidates is likely to get serious (not that either had too much experience at the ballot box). “The proposals involving Mao and Deng have made things complicated,” admits Wang Jianmin, a professor at the China University of Political Sciences and Law.
But why all the bureaucratic bickering? Simple, really. All the interested parties see national tourism day as a means for promoting their own province, and luring in tourists. Sadly, their overzealous voting looks to have killed this experiment in popular democracy. An official from the tourism administration then confirmed that the winning date was now likely to be decided by the State Council.
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