[EDITORIALS]Don't skip local electionsWith the local elections on June 13 nearing, a serious divide between the candidates and the voters has developed. This divide is apparent in the differences in fundamental views the two sides have about local governments and their roles. In a survey conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo, the majority of the candidates responded that local governments had been helpful to the development of various regions. However, two out of three voters said the local governments were not helpful. Moreover, 56 percent of voters replied that they felt that the local councils should be reduced or done away with.
Many voters felt the local governments had become greenhouses for corruption, bribery and incompetence instead of being effective and faithful to the needs of the public by providing responsible policies and good services. Disappointment, dissatisfaction and indifference were the three most marked reactions of the voters who answered the survey about their local governments. Also, 74 percent of the voters agreed to a public recall system in which the people could vote to dismiss any local head of office who has committed a serious wrongdoing.
The biggest problem is that this year's local elections are stuck somewhere between World Cup fever and the presidential election to be held later in the year. The absence of a decent sized audience at the joint candidate speech rally held Sunday was a clear sign of how the voters are not paying much attention to local elections. With things going the way they are, the voter turnout is predicted to be below 50 percent. There are talks whether it is necessary to divide the local government structure the way it is done now, with a smaller government unit linked to a bigger unit.
The efficiency of the local governments is vital to the welfare of the public because it is the local governments who decide the everyday policies for the people, such as water, transportation and the environment. Voters should not abandon the June 13 elections. In a fraction of the time and effort it takes to memorize World Cup match schedules and teams' players, voters can find out a great about their local candidates and learn which ones appear to be the best choices for their town or village. It is time for the voters to claim the elections rightfully as their own.