Last Updated 18 May 2021

Village Election and Corruption

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 In China,the election system refers to the election of deputies to the people’s congresses at various levels, which includes general local election and the election of deputies from the armed forces, in the special administrative regions. There are two kinds of election: direct election and indirect election. 1. Direct election means voters directly elect deputies to the people’s congresses by casting their votes.

Direct elections are applicable to the election of deputies to the people’s congresses of the counties, districts, townships and towns, which China's authoritarian(the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)) regime has allowed, encouraged, and required to be held at the village level,but not at higher levels. 2. Indirect election means deputies to the people’s congresses at the next higher level are elected by deputies to the people’s congresses at the next lower level.

Indirect elections are applicable to the election of deputies to people’s congresses above the county level and deputies among the armed forces at the same level and deputies to the NPC(National People's Congress) elected from special administrative regions. In this essay, I will focus on the direct election(village election). Since the problem of corruption in the village election is very common in China,such as buying-votes, treating to dinner to persuade by promising private goods and so on. Mainly comes from the following aspects: In a small electorate, campaigning is not an effective strategy to win an election.

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In contrast, vote-buying corruption can easily be an effective means to win an election with a small electorate. A Chinese village is small enough a community for each villager to know all the other villagers in person as they interact with each other on a daily basis and voters may already know whether the candidate has the intention and ability to provide public goods, which could become the condition of perfect information, in other words,in a village election, voters and candidates know each other personally, and voters may easily acquire personal information about the candidates.

Therefore, because under the conditions of perfect information, it is not costly for a candidate to seek office by treating a subset of the electorate to dinner or to give private goods to voters. On the other hand, it is relatively costly to attempt to sway voters by stating policy proposals that promise the provision of public goods for the whole electorate.

In China village elections, officials in the position of monitoring village elections do not have a strong incentive to regulate the elections because implementation of fair village elections is not considered an important criterion for the evaluation of local officials by higher authorities the cost of punishment for the corrupt act of buying votes is low in the case of China‘s village elections.

Even with formal rules stipulating severe punishment, if people do not believe that cases of corruption are revealed and formal rules are enforced, the punishment will not be considered a cost of the illegal act and will not deter it (Tsebelis 1989). Therefore, it is not puzzling that candidates compete to buy votes by providing private goods in campaigns for Chinese village elections. Model setting: The model describes the electoral competition between two candidates as a noncooperative simultaneous-move game. In the model, two candidates compete to win an election,and at equilibriums, electoral competition would increase the probability of vote-buying in electorate. In other words, electoral competition gives strong incentives for candidates to buy votes, but not to form an organization for mobilizing votes in a electorate.

The Candidates’ Choice of Strategies and Payoffs Assume

If both candidates adopt the same strategy, Candidate 1 will have a chance to win the election with the probability of p and Candidate 2 will have a chance to win the election with the probability of 1 – p (0 < p < 1). And we let 0 < p  0. 5,which means the candidate 1 is weaker. 2. if one candidate buys votes while the other candidate does not,the candidate that has bought votes will win. Utility: The utility of the candidate gaining from winning the election is denoted U (U > 0). Each candidate has two strategies: buying votes (BV) and not buying votes (NBV). Cost of buying votes (C): the multiplication of the cost to buy one vote  and the number of votes needed to buy (V). C= V suppose that C1>C2 (the cost of buying votes to win is higher as the candidate is weaker. )

Competitiveness: we can define the competitiveness of an election as the difficulty with which one can predict who will win, the election whose value of p is closer to 0. 5 will be considered more competitive. candidate2 Buying votes candidate1 Buying votes Not buying votes (pU-C1), (1-p)U-C2 0, U-C2 Not buying votes U-C1, pU, 0 (1-p)U The matrix in shows the incentives affecting candidates in a village election. . Solution of the model Since assume that 0 < p 0. 5 and assume without loss of generality that Candidate 1 is weaker. Candidates 1 and 2 must choose their strategies simultaneously. Thus, neither candidate is certain about which strategy the other candidate will take. (BV, BV) will be equilibrium if: U C1/p (NBV, BV) will be equilibrium if: C1/p U C2/p (NBV, NBV) will be equilibrium if: U C1/p (BV, NBV) can not be equilibrium, since we can not find any U that satisfies U C1/(1-p) and U C2/(1-p) as well. Because C1/(1-p) C2/(1-p).  As an election becomes more competitive (p is closer to 0. 5),the range where at least one candidate always buys votes,U C2/p is larger. Moreover, as p is larger,the range where neither candidate buy votes,U C1/p is smaller. Overall, candidates are more likely to choose the strategy of buying votes as an election becomes more competitive. In the villages where each candidate's expected value of winning an election is high, the candidate is tempted to buy votes.

Would electoral competition prevent a corrupt candidate from being elected? From the model, we can see, candidates are more likely to choose the strategy of buying votes as an election becomes more competitive, which may generate the following new hypothesis: effective informal institutions would make it easier for villagers to reach a pre-electoral consensus, make a village election less competitive, and give candidates less incentive to promise the provision of private goods. How to reach a pre-electoral consensus? Since a Chinese village is enough small that could lead to kinship system in village. In multi-kinship villages, whether pre-electoral consensus is reached and hence an election is not corrupt would depend on the relationship among kinship leaders.

If the kinship leaders are in conflict, villagers would fail to reach pre-electoral consensus, an election would be competitive, vote-buying would be more likely; meanwhile, if relations among kinship leaders are cooperative, the village would succeed in reaching pre-electoral consensus, an election would not be competitive, vote-buying would be less likely, and public goods would be properly provided. Therefore, how to prevent a vote-buying candidate from getting elected is a major policy question for China's village elections.

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