[EDITORIALS]Election spending watchdog

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[EDITORIALS]Election spending watchdog

The Grand National Party will join the Voters Coalition 2002's program and make public its presidential election spending. The Millennium Democratic Party, National Alliance 21 and the Democratic Labor Party have already agreed to join the program.

The Voters Coalition is an alliance of civic groups that campaigned to eliminate unqualified candidates during the general election two years ago. More than 300 groups belong; the leaders are the Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice, the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and the Korea Federation for Environmental Movement.

The coalition has demanded the abolition of the National Security Act and the conclusion of a Korean Peninsula peace treaty as presidential election pledges. The demands do not suit the policy of the Grand National Party, but the party joined because the people strongly desire transparent elections. Bills to monitor election spending were not approved last week, so a new monitoring measure was greatly needed.

As four candidates ?Lee Hoi-chang, Roh Moo-hyun, Chung Mong-joon and Kwon Young-ghil ?joined the program, it drew attention. The program requires the candidates to post their campaign spending every three days on their party's Internet pages, and to submit records of the spending, such as books and receipts, to the coalition every week. Supplemented by the official monitoring tools of the National Election Commission, the program will have effective influence. The commission's monitoring is more of a corrective action, while the coalition's program is more preventive.

For this program to effectively reduce spending, the candidates must cooperate actively. They all have vowed to root out corruption and to heighten transparency in politics. If they are willing to keep their promises, they must compete to transparently manage and spend their election funds.

The coalition should operate this program fairly. It should also remember the aftermath of its campaign to eliminate some candidates; a court ordered the coalition to pay damage compensation. The coalition must separate the spending-watchdog program from its policy advocacy if it is to win public support.

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