Three disgraced senior officials from China's Communist Party, including a man once considered a possible successor to President Xi Jinping, have been accused of rigging internal elections, as the party revealed on Thursday it abandoned a vote-based promotion system at its latest leadership reshuffle.
The accused cadres are the former security tsar Zhou Yongkang, former chief of staff to President Hu Jintao Ling Jihua, and former Chongqing party boss Sun Zhengcai, according to a Xinhua report.
Sun, who became the subject of an official investigation in July, was the youngest member of the Politburo and considered a front runner to succeed Xi. The party has yet to announce what charges he is facing.
Xinhua published a lengthy article revealing some of details of how candidates for top party roles were selected. It also accused the three leaders of bribing voters in internal elections.
It said that vote rigging occurred at both the 17th and 18th party congresses in 2007 and 2012, but did not specify which elections the trio are accused of trying to manipulate.
At the congress that ended on Tuesday, the party revoked a vote-based recommendation system to choose its top leadership, opting instead for a "consultation" mechanism.
"The 17th and 18th party congresses adopted recommendations during meetings, but the weight of those votes was overemphasised," according to the Xinhua article, which detailed how members of the innermost Politburo Standing Committee and the broader Politburo were selected.
"Some comrades did nothing beyond putting a tick on the ballot, leading to arbitrary voting and a distortion of public opinion," it said.
Such elections were susceptible to the influence of guanxi, or personal networks, which often led to cronyism, it said.
More from the South China Morning Post:
Xi Jinping sets mission for China's military leaders: aim high and modernise
Out with the technocrats, in with China's new breed of politicians
Caucasian beggars target Hong Kong while police turn a blind eye
The statement was a rare criticism of the vote-based recommendation system, which the party adopted at the 17th and 18th congresses, and which it claimed was "underlining the party's determination [to achieve] internal democracy".
Under that system, full and alternative members of the Central Committee at the 17th congress voted to select their favourite 25 cadres – for the Politburo – from a list of 200 candidates. Five years later, the system was used to select both the members of the Politburo and its elite Standing Committee.