[FOUNTAIN]Representative politics’ real world impact

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[FOUNTAIN]Representative politics’ real world impact

Not every citizen can raise his voice and participate in politics. Thus it is more reasonable for citizens to choose representatives and have them speak for their views. This is how representative politics was born.
According to the principles of representative politics, each political party should have a share of seats in the Assembly in proportion to the number of votes it has earned in the election. That way, the Assembly can represent the citizens correctly.
But the reality is quite different. In 1963, the Republican Party earned only 33.5 percent of the votes, but took 67.2 percent of the Assembly seats. Except for the 1971 election, when the New Democratic Party was especially strong, the ruling party continued to enjoy overrepresentation throughout the Third Republic. In 1981, the Democratic Justice Party garnered 35.8 percent of the votes but obtained 47.3 percent of the seats.
Sometimes, an opposition party enjoys the benefit of overrepresentation. In the 16th National Assembly, the Grand National Party, which earned 39 percent of the votes, had 49.3 percent of the seats.
The distortion of representation can be scientifically calculated. American political scientist Douglas Rae came up with the Rae Index, which is the mean difference between the percent of seats and the percent of votes. The ruling and opposition parties find themselves in different positions following this month’s legislative elections.
Our Open Party earned 42 percent of the votes in the district-based election and obtained 53.1 percent of the Assembly seats. The ruling party thus enjoyed a premium of 11.1 percent. Meanwhile, the opposition Grand National Party got 37.9 percent of the votes and secured 41.2 percent of the seats, for a 3.3 percent premium.
The difference in votes between the ruling and opposition parties was 4.1 percent, but the difference in the number of seats the parties have is 11.9 percent.
This disproportional representation is not necessarily negative. When public sentiment is almost equally divided, one party can prevail based on the principle of rule by the majority. That way, we can prevent potential instability. But neither party has an unchallenged majority in terms of representation even though the ruling party has the majority of seats.

by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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