[EDITORIALS]Dangers to local autonomyOn July 3, the fourth group of elected local officials took office. Eleven years have passed since local autonomy was granted by the central government. The general evaluation is that the system has worked quite well despite its short history.
Among the group newly installed in office, eight out of 16 city mayors and provincial governors and 118 of 230 heads of smaller administrative districts were newcomers to political posts. We hope this will help local autonomy to develop one step further.
But because the Grand National Party swept nearly all the positions of district heads and legislative council members, it may be hard to abide by the principle of political checks and balances. In Seoul, the mayor, 25 district heads and 102 out of 106 city council members belong to the Grand National Party. Other parties can hardly form a negotiating body.
There is a possibility that the Grand National Party might manage the administration of the city peremptorily. The party should listen to the people’s opinion and show its intentions and determination to get rid of corruption. That is the right way to repay the trust and support from the people who cast their votes, taking the risk of a single party’s one-sided dominance.
If one party does not keep another party in check, corruption could quickly arise. Out of 245 district heads who were elected in 1995 throughout the country, 23 persons, or nearly 10 percent, have been charged with embezzlement and bribe-taking while they were in office. A quarter of those elected the next time around and more than 30 percent in the third group followed the same course.
There were many problems in the parties’ nomination procedures for the recent local elections. A court has stripped two smaller district heads of their positions; three other district heads have been suspended.
If a person spends a huge amount of money in a campaign, he will probably want to make even more money while he is in office. The meaning of local autonomy can be tarnished, and citizens suffer. This is a betrayal for voters. We urge district heads and council members to be fair when hiring new people and not to attempt to make profits while doing their jobs.
The people remember pledges that candidates made in their campaigns. Candidates should not use their pledges for the sole purpose of winning and then discard them after the elections. Local heads must try their best to keep their pledges and should be prepared to receive the people’s evaluation.