BEIJING, NOV. 7 -- The official Communist Party newspaper today mocked the low voter turnout in U.S. elections as a reflection of disregard for democracy.

"Some people hold American democracy in the highest esteem, believing it to be the model for the free, democratic system," the People's Daily said. "Actually, the American people themselves don't care about their democratic rights or hold them in high regard."

The front-page article, titled "The Irony of American Democracy," carried the byline Xiang Qun, which means "to the masses."

In Tuesday's voting, turnout appeared close to the 1986 midterm elections -- the lowest percentage since 1942 -- when 36.4 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, voting analyst Curtis Gans said. Final totals for this year are expected later this week.

The races included the entire 435-member House of Representatives, 34 members of the 100-seat Senate and 36 of 50 gubernatorial seats.

In 1988, the presidential race drew a 50 percent turnout, the lowest in 64 years.

"That citizens in a 'democratic' country don't want to exercise their democratic rights is the great irony of American-style democracy," the article said.

"As everybody knows, the only difference between the two American political parties is that they represent the interests of different financial groups, {and} it doesn't make any difference which party is elected," the commentary said.