Recall responsiblyThe Suwon District Court yesterday ordered the Hanam election committee in Gyeonggi not to vote on dismissing locally elected officials, including the city’s mayor. The court said that signature books residents submitted to the election committee had crucial flaws, making the recall petition invalid.
Hanam recently drew attention to itself by being the first city to make use of a system that allows the recall of elected officials. This system is a kind of direct democracy, designed to make up for flaws in representative democracy. If elected officials do not carry out their duties properly, residents in the area can dismiss them. This is widely used in developed countries, such as the United States. Introducing this system in Korea means that local autonomy has developed. It is expected to increase transparency and responsibility in local government.
But there should not be procedural flaws no matter how good a system may be. It is legitimate that the Suwon District Court explained its ruling by saying the procedural formalities of a vote must be abided by and that mistakes must be corrected from the beginning. We hope that this ruling will reinforce the system’s legitimacy and help people understand it more accurately.
Hanam’s election committee bears responsibility for proposing a vote in a rushed manner without looking at the petition carefully. Due to this mistake, duties of the elected officials who were targets of the recall were temporarily suspended, paralyzing administrative procedures. The election committee wasted time and energy preparing the vote. The election commission must manage the system more carefully.
For grass-roots democracy to succeed, people must have integrity as well. Otherwise, democratic institutions can be misused for political purposes and side effects can occur, such as paralyzing local governments and creating conflict among residents.
If the vote to dismiss administrative chiefs is misused by residents who oppose the mayor’s attempt to build a crematorium, locally elected officials will begin to focus only on not upsetting residents, and residents will become more selfish.
The current system must be complemented so that political parties are prohibited from intervening in elections of local officials. Local residents must be mature about democracy. These are two keys to the success of the new system to dismiss locally elected officials.