Nomination reform neededReform of the nomination system is the first step toward political reform. So far, legislative candidates have been picked through a top-down process in which a political heavyweight or the party leadership wields more clout than the existing nomination screening committees. This practice has ultimately led to an outdated culture where the fate of political aspirants is subjugated to the attitudes of the people in power.
The pro-Lee Myung-bak faction stirred up a strong backlash by dominating the nomination process of the ruling Grand National Party ahead of the April 2008 general election.
Nomination reform is aimed at promoting a fair and open system by introducing primary races. Since then, both the ruling party and the main opposition Democratic Party have come up with the idea of primary races in which party members and the general public participate equally in the process.
But the GNP’s current fuss over whom to nominate in the Bundang-B District for the April 27 by-elections makes us wonder if the ruling party really wants to push ahead with reform. It would be a great political experiment if the GNP as a ruling party could conduct a genuine primary race in the upscale town.
The GNP had vowed to respect its rules on primary races but has not fixed the details. Yet the party has already received applications from nine candidates. Won Hee-ryong, chairman of the party’s nomination screening committee, said that if DP chairman Sohn Hak-kyu runs for election in the district, he would consider a “strategic nomination,” hinting at the possibility of nominating former Prime Minister Chung Un-chan for the district, a long-time GNP preserve.
Chung has declared he will not run this time and didn’t even present his application to the committee. That’s an example that shows how a particular politician can still affect the nomination process. Worse, the visit by the wife of Blue House chief of staff Yim Tae-hee to the opening ceremony of the office of former GNP chairman Kang Jae-sup, now one of the six candidates in the district, is also deemed inappropriate. While President Lee shies away from interfering with the nomination process, his subordinate attempted to show his support for Kang by sending his wife there.
That gives us the impression that Yim, a former lawmaker representing the Bundang District, believes it is still his constituency. We urge the GNP to take the lead in conducting a long-touted political experiment to embody its earlier promise.