[EDITORIALS]Ruling Is First Step Toward Reform

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[EDITORIALS]Ruling Is First Step Toward Reform

The politicians cannot help but draw new game rules because of the decision by the Constitutional Court that Korea's law on proportional representation in the election of representatives to the National Assembly is unconstitutional. Politicians had known all along that proportional representation with one vote per person ran against the spirit of direct election, but ended up being intervened from the outside because they themselves could not rectify it.

The ruling and opposition parties are now inevitably drawn to sit together face-to-face at the table to amend the election law. The parties plan to activate the Political Reform Committee at the regular session of the National Assembly in September, but obstacles and much strife are expected. However, as long as they are the object of reform, we expect them to discuss reform for a new election culture by respecting the will of the voters. We believe the message behind the ruling is that the election culture should be revamped. The proportional representation of one vote per person contributed to the establishment of the two-party system, but it also bred a political culture of collusion and protection of existing privileges. There were also criticisms of an election strategy that resorts to regionalism as a weapon.

The purpose of proportional representation lies in gathering separately people from all sectors of society and enhancing the diversity, expertise and professional representation of the legislative branch. However, it has little to do with voters. During the mid-term election on April 13, voters directly elected 227 representatives of local governments, but the 46 indirectly voted to office according to the winning ratio of each party, was an election without a face. At every election, suspicion arose over the contribution in billions of won for nominations to seats allotted to each party in proportion to the number of votes won. Those who wished to be nominated for the seats competed in expressing their loyalty to the party bosses.

Therefore, negotiations on a new election law should be geared toward respecting each vote cast by the people and in opening the doors to those wishing to enter politics. The ruling that the 20 million won independent candidates must pay as a deposit is unconstitutional because it obstructs entry to politics would also back this argument. A completely new approach should be taken at this opportunity. In that sense, some say we should discard the seats allotted to each party in proportion to votes won and instead increase the number of directly elected regional representatives by the same number. However, the two votes per person proposed as an alternative in consideration of the constitution should be taken into account first. There is no time to idle away, since elections for the provincial and metropolitan councils in June have proportional representation as with the National Assembly. The law governing the elections should also be fixed.

The ruling Millennium Democratic Party seems to view the revision of the law as a way to increase their seats and the Grand National Party is concerned with the possibility that the ruling party might exploit the occasion to revamp the political field to its own benefit. However, the 17th mid-term elections (April 2004) come after presidential elections (December 2002). Therefore, the present strategies taken by the two parties may be useless calculations. They should approach the issue as creating a new election culture for the people. If not, they will inevitably face intervention again from the outside as with the recent rulings. Improving the election culture is the beginning of political reform.
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