TV debatesTV debates are the best medium to give voters a chance to compare the presidential candidates. There are limitations to TV debates, mainly because just a couple of debates do not provide enough information for voters to learn about leadership, characteristics and policy in detail. But TV debates have helped change election culture. In the past, election campaigns were heavily dependent on money and organizations, but now they are more about competing policies.
The first TV debate will be held for two hours on Thursday and seven candidates will appear. Even though Sim Dae-pyung has withdrawns his presidential bid, as many as six candidates will attend the debate.
That is because the second clause of Article 82 of the electoral law states that a TV debate will be attended by the presidential candidates of a political party which has more than five lawmakers or which earned more than 3 percent of votes in direct elections, or the candidates whose approval ratings have been higher than 5 percent on average for one month before the election.
Thus, one candidate will have less than 20 minutes in the debate and that is not enough time to learn about a candidate who will lead the country for the next five years.
The debate will likely be shallow. The law must be revised after the presidential election.
Major broadcasters planned to have TV debates among three major contenders for the presidential election, but the court dismissed the idea. The court said that presidential candidates who do not appear will lose an opportunity to promote themselves and persuade the people.
But this shows that the court is overly obsessed with equality. Voters want to see a debate among candidates who have a strong chance to be elected so they can choose the right person as president.
The court’s decision limits the voters’ right to know. In 1995, the National Election Commission said it was possible to invite two or three presidential candidates and have a debate. The election law also allows broadcasters to have a debate with one or more presidential candidates. And the law states that the debate must be presided over fairly and justly.
The presidential candidates from minor political parties or with lower approval ratings can have a separate debate to solve the issue of equality.
TV debates are aimed at giving voters knowledge to help them make their own best choice.