[EDITORIALS]A troubling precedentThe police searched an Uri Party office and seized some material. That is regrettable, but a local chapter of the party allegedly registered people as members without their consent.
Those charges have to be investigated. Registering fake party members in order to taint the election process inside the party is a criminal act that puts a dent into the basic procedures of democracy. It can never be forgiven that party dues were taken from government subsidies to low-income people.
But we have to worry about the police investigation because it could threaten the existence of political parties, a constitutional political tool. If the police intervenes in internal matters of a party like this, the independence of the parties cannot be upheld. Such measures can be abused by targeting a specific political party. In light of these facts, it would have been better if the party itself had resolved the matter before law enforcement authorities got involved. A political party that is responsible for managing the country should at least be in possession of such a self-cleaning capability, and if that is not the case, its ability to rule the country is called into doubt and the voters will react accordingly.
On top of all that, the opposition party is questioning whether the raid by the police is a tactic that might be cited later as a precedent for using it against them. It is understandable that the opposition is worried, because the police conducted the unprecedented raid after President Roh Moo-hyun ordered a full investigation of the Uri Party case. The search and investigation was requested by the party itself, and the scope of the investigation is being limited to 156 people who may have been paying party dues without their consent, according to the Uri Party.
Under such conditions, it would have been enough that the Uri Party provided the police with the list of party members, but opting for a search and seizure is hard to understand. If, according to the argument by the Uri Party, the investigation took place at the request of the party, it means that the party itself has damaged its own independence. Filtering out forged party memberships is an internal affair of a political party.
If there are no internal rules able to deal with such issues, how can such a party compete with an opposing party for the right to represent the people? If the police call any party member and ask whether their memberships are real, the freedom to become a party member can only be damaged. From that point on the political party is in the hands of the authorities.