Cleaning up their mess

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Cleaning up their mess

On the 25th of April, re-elections and by-elections will be held in 55 constituencies nationwide. Posts being decided in the elections are 56 in number, including three seats in the National Assembly, six city or county heads, nine metropolitan or provincial council members and 38 municipal or district council members.
Electoral fraud was the reason behind 50 out of 56 of these vacancies, making incumbents ineligible to run.
Seven posts filled in local re-elections and by-elections last October were also due to electoral fraud. If the candidates had abided by election law in the first place, and if constituents had not voted for these corrupt candidates, we would not have had these elections. Re-elections and by-elections have taken place in 312 constituencies so far since the last election year ― 2004.
The cost of election administration is estimated to be 1 billion won ($1 million) for a city or county head, and one hundred million won for a local council election, although the cost differs according to region and population.
The April 25 re-elections and by-elections will total 20 billion won in election administration costs. If we also consider the conditional subsidy the government provides to individual candidates, the final cost will increase further.
The problem is that local residents are bearing the financial burden of these elections. The financial pressures will be really serious, especially for some poor local governments that cannot hold their own financially. Take for example one local city, Bong-hwa, North Gyeongsang province. The cost of administering the election will be 751 million won, which is 6.5 percent of the total annual revenue of the county. A small county must pour around half of its yearly property tax income into electing its head again.
Local residents are bearing too heavy a burden to right the wrongs of certain candidates.
In this regard, the suggestions of some civic groups deserve attention ― that the cost for re-elections and by-elections should be paid back by the ex-incumbents if they are guilty of fraud.
The constituents are not absolved from responsibility for electing bad candidates. Yet the candidates who employed corrupt means to win elections, thereby necessitating extra elections, and the political parties that recommended these candidates to the constituents should also share the responsibility.
It is right and fair.

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