[EDITORIALS]Less emphasis on by-elections

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[EDITORIALS]Less emphasis on by-elections

Woo Keun-min, the Jeju governor, lost his position due to the Supreme Court’s decision to fine him 3 million won ($2,600) for violating the campaign law. Now that post, along with two other local government positions ― mayor of Busan and governor of South Gyeongsang province ― will be filled through the by-elections that will take place June 5. Voters will also choose 18 heads of district-level local governments, including five district heads in the Seoul metropolitan area, 35 local council members, and 46 district-level council members.
Since the by-elections will take place nationwide and some positions are considered significant, each party has a keen interest in the outcome. Our Open Party and the Grand National Party are now in the process of nominating candidates.
But the problem is that each party is much too occupied with the thought of winning the by-elections, thereby highly politicizing them. For example, President Roh Moo-hyun is said to have asked Our Open Party officials to make an effort to win the by-elections in the Gyeongsang provinces so that the party can truly become a “national” party. The Grand National Party, which failed to become a majority party in this month’s national legislative elections, and the Millennium Democratic Party, which is under the threat of extinction, are approaching the by-elections in terms of “revenge” or “comeback.” This means that the parties think of the by-elections as extensions of the April 15 legislative elections.
But we believe the by-elections are no more than elections to fill vacancies in local offices. It will be troublesome if the parties’ headquarters become too involved in the elections or if the elections become too politicized. If that happens, it will become difficult for local residents to choose the proper person to deal with an area’s own issues, such as local administration, welfare, development and education. Indeed, that would hurt the principles of local autonomy.
It is better for the parties’ headquarters to devote themselves to preparing for the new National Assembly rather than caring about supporting the by-election campaigns. The government should manage the by-election affairs well and remain impartial.
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