[OUTLOOK]New multiparty system is needed

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[OUTLOOK]New multiparty system is needed

"Today I must go to our local party headquarters with my family after dinner. My eldest child is preparing for a year-end fund-raising event with her college friends. My younger child, a middle school student, has a debate about recycling. Yesterday, I made donations to five legislators who helped pass a law requiring salt products to carry labels stating the amount of dioxin they contain."

Perhaps we're all tired of hearing about new parties. Nevertheless, I write the above introduction with the hope that one day, we'll create a new party and party system that support such an everyday lifestyle for its members. The type of political party we should form should be determined by the power structure and electoral system written in our constitution.

Governmental systems that aim for the separation of three branches, such as the one found in the United States, give considerable power to the legislators with the intent of checking the administrative branch. As a result, the disciplinary character of political parties is comparatively weaker, and a voter-friendly populist party is emphasized.

On the other hand, the parliamentary system found in many European countries does not separate the legislative and administrative powers of government, demanding a stronger sense of responsibility on the parts of the political parties. European parties, therefore, tend to have stronger powers, generally derived from party members who pay party dues.

Our constitution calls for a presidential system such as the U.S. system, yet it provides for a prime minister and allows the participation of legislators in the cabinet, as in France's system. It would be necessary, therefore, to give more liberty and power to the legislators, but it is neither possible nor desirable for us to adopt a system which does not allow political parties outside the legislature and opt for an assembly-centered party system.

Moreover, civic and political experts agree that the one-person, two-vote system of proportional representation is a good idea. With the introduction of this system, it would be expected that a multiparty culture -- with two major parties and two or three additional smaller parties -- would be established.

Under the multiparty system, it would become difficult for one party to hold the majority of seats, and coalitions would be frequently formed.

This is where smaller parties would become important. In addition to fostering coalitions based on ideology and policies rather than political clout, smaller parties would also act as buffers in confrontations between the major parties in the assembly.

Ultimately, the ideal party system we should be pursuing is a hybrid between the European system, with its administrative responsibilities, and the U.S. system, with its power residing in the legislature.

The core of our party system reforms should be the bottom-to-top decision-making process, including party nominations and party platform, in which the party strives to create a body of supporters. For this to happen, the present local headquarters' leaders must all resign and the "genuine" party members who pay membership dues should select new leaders and executives.

Is such party reform possible in our country? Can a party draw members without charismatic leaders and political payoffs?

Twenty percent of respondents to a recent survey said they would be willing to join a reform party offering more power to members. Support of the reforms tended to be highest among people with high educations.

In order to attract party members, a party must have its own ideology and policy focus. By turning members' beliefs and values into viable policies, parties can receive the devotion and financial support they need from their members.

According to a series of opinion polls, voters' opinions of candidates have undergone turbulent changes this year.

However, as I have stated, this phenomenon has been gathering force ever since 1992. The reason is that voters have been waiting for a new party, yet the parties have failed to show any ideological direction or identity, relying only on regionalism.

This has caused voters to turn their backs on the parties, resulting in a decrease in voter turnout since 1987.

How can we reorganize our party system? Both modern and postmodern values coexist in our society. Since the 1997 financial crisis, the electorate has tended to vote by class and the distinctions between party ideologies have been stronger. Yet, a myriad of postmodern values -- including environmental issues, women's movements and human rights -- have emerged, leaving the two major parties short of representing all these different aspects of society.

This is why the introduction of a moderate multiparty system, by the reformation of the electoral system, is highly recommended.

By contrast, the merging of the Millennium Democratic Party with another ideologically distinct party -- merely to form an anti-Lee Hoi-chang coalition -- would only bring further punishment from the people.


The writer is a professor of political science at Ewha Womans University.

by Cho Ki-suk

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