[EDITORIALS]A crucial MDP experiment

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[EDITORIALS]A crucial MDP experiment

The Millennium Democratic Party decided on the framework for picking its presidential candidate, signaling the start of the election campaign. With power struggles and mud-slinging behind them, the party decided to hold a convention on April 20. The decision enhanced public confidence in the party as it signaled its independence from President Kim.

The MDP's plan for primary elections also can be seen as a step forward in party democracy. The party will allow, for the first time in our party politics, ordinary voters to participate in the primary election; half of the 70,000 electoral delegates will be nonparty members. The primaries will kick off with a vote on Jeju island, as the Americans do in New Hampshire. The selection process will also use electronic voting through the Internet. This is new and refreshing for voters inured to our old style of boss-led party politics. The plans may have a ripple effect on the Grand National Party and its president, Lee Hoi-chang, who has been unable to shed the image of an "imperial party president."

But the MDP's glitzy program is not without uncertainties and potential obstacles. To keep the negatives at bay, the party must ensure fairness and transparency in its candidate selection system. A "money bath" must be avoided. Some campaign aides have said that a candidate would have to spend up to 10 billion won ($7.6 million) before the convention is over, including up to 300 million won for a campaign appearance and even more on gifts for delegates and for maintaining campaign organizations. In the current political climate, primaries could be another source of corruption where professional campaigners and corrupt delegates become active. There could be lingering questions about how the nonparty member delegates are chosen; nor is it clear what will happen if there is no clear majority in favor of any candidate for a given office.

New procedures for the primaries are needed to minimize such problems. Shows of strength by massing supporters and creating artificial momentum are outdated. The primaries must be about leadership, policy and vision for the nation and promoting political maturity. That must be the determination of all the candidates, and the losers must accept defeat. If not, the MDP's trial will end as just a failed ploy to distinguish itself from the GNP.

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