Clean up ‘money elections’This year’s legislative election campaigns have been tainted by candidates who tried to buy voters. We thought the “money election” had almost been exterminated through the 16th general elections in 2000 and the 17th general elections in 2004. But the dark, persistent money election has reared its ugly head again. The money election has appeared in diverse forms, crossing party lines.
A candidate of the Grand National Party directly gave cash to an election campaign worker. An election campaigner for an independent candidate was caught holding tens of millions won in cash with a list of voters. A campaign worker for the Pro-Park Geun-hye United group was arrested on the spot while giving money to a voter. Money envelopes usually contained 200,000 won in cash and even 500,000 or 1 million won in some cases. The National Police Agency said it has arrested a total of 1,770 suspects on charges of election irregularities so far and among them, 264 were involved in exchanging money or other favors.
The reason why the money election has resurfaced in the 18th general elections is because there are no distinct political agenda and politicians are split over their own political interests. In short, the incompetence of politicians brought the money election back to life. In the 17th general elections, there was a controversial issue on whether the impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun was right or wrong. Voters needed to make a decision on that single issue. But in this election, the not-so-fresh issue of whether to vote for the ruling party to stabilize the current administration or vote for opposition parties to enable them to check the administration has not grabbed the attention of voters.
While the opposition parties tried to make an issue out of the administration’s plan to build a grand canal, the governing Grand National Party tried to dodge the issue. Besides the competition between the ruling and opposition parties, suddenly there emerged confrontation between the Pro-Park Geun-hye United group and Pro-Lee Myung-bak group within the Grand National Party. That messed up the elections. When there were no controversial issues, money, bribes and mudslinging become the primary tools to attract votes.
Regionally, rural cities or regions are more affected by money elections due to the relative paucity of monitoring. Some analysts say that it is because the elderly, who make up a bigger portion of the population there, miss the sweet memories of past money elections. We hope the National Election Commission, the prosecution and the police fight fiercely against money elections.