[EDITORIALS]Hiding the Assembly’s dirtThe National Assembly’s political reform committee changed the election law revision bill it is considering to force Assembly candidates to reveal their criminal records only if they had been imprisoned. Originally, the committee wanted criminal records that included not only imprisonment, but also fines and other lesser punishments, to be revealed, but abruptly changed its position.
We suspect the change was made because many candidates have criminal records that include fines, suspended sentences and summary judgements. Indeed, when we look at general statistics that have been published, without names, on candidates’ criminal records, many have received such punishments as fines, suspended sentences, probation, detention and suspensions of indictment. Only 10 percent of candidates, these studies showed, were punished by imprisonment.
Criminal records are vital information for voters to use in choosing their representatives. This is why candidates’ records of time spent in prison were made public for the first time in the last elections. The public consensus was that for this election, that disclosure should be expanded. But the committee reneged and opposed that consensus by revising the bill to eliminate additional disclosure.
Candidates with drunken driving, gambling, petty fraud, illegal campaigning and embezzlement records will probably not have to worry about being exposed.
The bill will impair the citizens’ rights to adequate information on candidates. The voters should decide how much weight they want to give to convictions, so the information should be available.
Criminal records are the most important personal information about candidates. Is the committee trying to turn the Assembly into a gang of criminals? The full Assembly should overrule the committee’s decision and should give the people the right to know about their electoral choices.