[EDITORIALS]An evasive election commissionIt is wrong for the National Election Commission to remain evasive about the president’s clear involvement in election affairs. President Roh Moo-hyun, at Tuesday’s press conference with broadcast reporters, said, “I expect voters to overwhelmingly support Our Open Party.” He even said, “I will do everything legal as the president if I can help the party garner more votes.”
According to the election laws, government officials are not allowed to engage in election campaigns. The president, of course, belongs to the category of government officials.
But the election commission said, “We have to review the remarks of the president to find out whether they are aimed at prodding the public to vote for a particular party.” That comment was not made officially, but rather indirectly through a commission official.
It is cowardly of the commission to say this. It has said that strictly cracking down on illegality in the campaign for the April 15 legislative elections is a matter of “life or death” for the commission.
In his New Year address, commission chief Yoo Ji-dam said, “April 15 is the day to cure the ill politics of the nation. We will resolutely counter those who interfere with proper elections, no matter who they are.”
Now nobody thinks the commission is resolute. Since the president’s remark is controversial, it is just trying to see which way the wind is blowing without taking any action.
Past presidents’ election campaigns were not deemed illegal because they acted as heads of their parties, not as the president. But Mr. Roh has no party affiliation.
The commission should become more outspoken. How can it maintain its authority when it acts against weak candidates and defers to the current powers-that-be?
The commission was established under constitutional rules and its commissioners are “not subject to dismissal unless they are impeached or receive a prison sentence.”
The next elections will not work well if the commission tries to tacitly permit the president’s illegality. Even Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan expressed concern that the next elections may be influenced by the abuse of governmental authority. The commission should see the reality clearly.