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An electoral puzzle

Mar 21,2019
The electoral system should be as simple as possible since a system that few voters understand is no good. Party for Democracy and Peace Rep. Park Jie-won called the outline to redesign the electoral system — which has been agreed to by four political parties, save by the main opposition Liberty Korea Party — “beyond my comprehension.” If a four-term lawmaker cannot understand it, how will the general public? The outline proposes that seats be assigned proportional representation since half of the voters support parties in each major city and provincial blocks — instead of the current system in which the seats are proportionally assigned according to the overall number of elected winners and party support rates.

If a party receives 30 percent support from voters, then a full reflection of the support, in theory, would allot the party 90 of the available 300 seats in the legislature for constituency and proportional representation. If the party wins 30 seats in the constituencies that their candidates ran, it is eligible for 60 of the 75 proportional slots. Under the 50-percent rule, the available seats would be halved to 30. When proportional seats are divided among other parties according to the 50-percent rule, a few may be left the 75 available proportional seats. The remainder would be distributed again under the party support rate. As a result, the most popular party would be eligible to win 20 seats in constituency and an additional 30 more for proportional representation.

Under the new plan, the proportional representation slots would also be distributed according to the share of votes a party gains from each of the large major metropolitan constituencies — Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi, Honam and Jeju, Daegu and North Gyeongsang, Busan and South Gyeongsang, and Chungcheong and Gangwon. Even the gist of the new outline is hard to explain, let alone understand. The parties are poised to pass the overhaul outline through a fast-track program that would only require three-fifths approval. How can lawmakers throw their vote of approval to a system that few members understand?

In a press briefing, Rep. Sim Sang-jeung, a Justice Party lawmaker and chair of the political reform committee in the National Assembly, said the public doesn’t need to fully understand the new formula. She likened it to learning about computers. “One just needs to know how to type. Not everyone should know what makes the computer work,” she said. The comment is an obvious disregard for the public. She does not deserve to head the reform committee if she thinks she can forego the process of persuading the public to change the electoral system, which can be harder than revising the Constitution.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 20, Page 30


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