[EDITORIALS]A Vote for Primary System

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[EDITORIALS]A Vote for Primary System

The discussions in the ruling Millennium Democratic Party over the method of selecting next year's presidential candidate have produced some valuable proposals. One of them is the "adoption of primaries," which came from Thursday's seminar held by the party's special committee for reform. A primary would entail holding regional conventions before holding a nationwide convention as a way to reflect views across the total spectrum of the party.

The system, which was developed in the United States, reflects the complementarity of national and democratic politics. Many domestic politicians and analysts have long recommended that Korean parties introduce primaries to prevent public opinion on a party's nomination from being skewed by a contest between party factions. This could be a test for the ruling party, which has tried to go it alone since President Kim Dae-jung resigned as its leader.

Adoption of a primary system could be the first step toward "open party politics" for ordinary voters. Under such a system, political parties could escape the old practices, such as nominations behind closed doors, secret contributions for nominations, and furtive deals.

A primary system would also help transfer the nominations for parliamentary candidates, which are monopolized by the party leadership, to rank-and-file party members. To achieve these goals, local parties should expand the number of delegates to the party conventions and consider letting ordinary citizens participate in party nominations as delegates at-large. The MDP has about 9,300 delegates and 73 percent of them are from Jeolla provinces. With such a distribution of delegates, the party will have difficulties collecting nationwide support.

Presidential hopefuls should note that a primary system could reawaken the public. It could raise the competitiveness of any presidential candidate from the Millennium Democratic Party. There could be some adverse effects, such as earlier overheating of the presidential race and vote buying, since the system is not yet familiar to Koreans. The ruling party will have to collect its members' ideas to introduce a new political culture.
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