On a chilly December morning in Liuqian village, in China's Shandong province, 1,286 people – 94% of those villagers eligible to vote – gather in the local school playground to elect a new village committee.
Committees are responsible for the day-to-day management of villages, and since 1998 the law has stated that they must be directly elected by the villagers themselves.
Some experts believe that this could be the start of democracy in China.
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A candidate attempts to win the villagers over with a pre-vote speech, as election officials look on.
Six men are competing for three-year terms of office and all but one of them are Communist Party members.
Some say that far from encouraging democracy, village elections actually reinforce Communist Party control because they increase its legitimacy
Registration by fingerprint
The villagers queue up to register and each of them receives a ballot paper.
In a country where many middle-aged and elderly people are illiterate, fingerprints replace written signatures as proof of registration.
Beside each person's name a fingerprint is carefully placed in red ink.
At private voting booths the electors make their choices.
Villager Liu Kuan is hoping for: "Somebody who is capable, who can contribute to Liuqian village, and who won't embezzle money."
Corruption among officials is a primary concern for the people of China.
In many places, vote-buying is used to ensure electoral success.
Votes are extremely valuable, especially as the incumbent committee has power over the sale of village land.
Corrupt officials have also been known to sell off land and flee with the money, leaving villagers with no source of income.
The election is overseen by a panel of Party officials from outside the village.
Their role is to ensure that everything is done in accordance with the law.
In some places, however, local officials have annulled election results after the "wrong" person got in.
The ballot box is emptied and election officials start to sort the votes.
For 19-year-old Liu Kuan the result is :"Absolutely important, because we want to elect a good secretary - a good villager - from the bottom of our hearts."
Elderly villager Huang Maoying, on the other hand, says: "They're all the same. Whoever we elect, we'll have to follow. If they'd only give us enough to eat, and look after the old people, that'd be fine."
Singing the Votes 唱票
While one official calls out the names of the candidates from the ballot papers, another keeps a tally of votes per candidate.
It's known as "singing the votes", a literal translation, because "sing" can also mean "call out".
Villagers eager for the result peer over the wall of the school playground where the election is being held.
Their wait is almost over.
The big announcement
The master of ceremonies announces the election results.
Four of the six candidates were voted in, including the non-Party member.
The head of the committee, Zheng Jifu, retained his seat for another term, though with a reduced majority.
In his victory speech, Zheng Jifu promises to deal properly with all the village issues and to be open to "public supervision".
Some Party leaders hope that making officials more accountable to the public will help curb the rampant corruption which is making the Party increasingly unpopular.
Although more powerful officials are still not directly elected, Zheng Jifu knows that in three years' time, his position will once again be in the hands of the villagers.
Only time will tell whether elections like these will take place at higher levels in China, and if so, whether this will begin to restrict the Party's power.