[EDITORIALS]A tolerable TV debate planThe National Election Commission ruled yesterday that Roh Moo-hyun, presidential candidate of the Millennium Democratic Party, and Chung Mong-jun, National Unity 21's standard bearer, may televise one debate, not sponsored by a broadcasting company, to consolidate their candidacies into one.
The Grand National Party objected, saying that the permission for a televised debate violates the Election Act. Mr. Roh's and Mr. Chung's camps also objected to the ruling; they want more than one TV debate.
The ruling of the highest election management body must be respected. The ruling compromised the conflicting political interests of the parties and the relevant regulations. Such compromises may pose a problem. It is, however, realistic to see the ruling as the commission's endeavor to minimize the possibility of unfairness and unequal opportunity while maximizing the people's right to know.
We have already pointed out that televised debates among only certain selected candidates may be unfair, because the presidential election will take place in less than a month. Since the debate is to consolidate the candidacies, it is likely that the opportunity to promote their election campaigns may be abused. We were worried that the fairness of the election might be hindered in the name of the people's right to know.
The commission's ruling, however, seems to take account of these concerns, and we believe the short-cut decision is tolerable, considering law and politics. Trying to guarantee fairness and equity, the commission also said candidates other than Mr. Chung and Mr. Roh may request to host televised debates.
Mr. Chung and Mr. Roh will hold a debate sponsored by a third party, and it will take place amid controversy. That is why the two candidates' and the organizer's attitudes are important. The organizer must make sure that the debate will not be an opportunity to criticize a third candidate. The two candidates will have to clarify their justifications for the candidate consolidation and conduct a serious debate on their policies. Voters will turn their backs if the debate turns into nothing more than another form of election campaign.