Keeping nomination races fair

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Keeping nomination races fair

Representative Park Geun-hye, interim leader of the ruling Grand National Party, said, “Genuine party reform begins with a change in the candidate nomination process for lawmakers.” She added that when the nominations are done according to acceptable standards, it will mark a significant turning point in the party’s reform efforts. We welcome Park’s remarks, given citizens’ fervent desire for a genuine revolution in the candidate nomination process ahead of the legislative elections in April.

Han Myeong-sook, the newly elected chairwoman of the opposition Democratic Unity Party, seems to agree with Park’s ideas. In a press conference after winning the post, Han vowed to “bring about a revolution in the nomination process so that we can return the right to nominate candidates to the people” through ordinary citizens’ full participation in the process.

With the election of a new DUP leadership, both parties are expected to compete harder in the battle to hold fair candidate nominations. The GNP has decided to introduce a U.S.-style open primary. This is in sharp contrast to how it conducted itself in the legislative elections four years ago, when the pro-Lee Myung-bak faction wielded absolute influence in the nominations.

The GNP will hold open primaries for 196 constituencies - a whopping 80 percent of the 245 constituencies across the nation - in order to carry out a bottom-up nomination process instead of closed-door, top-down process. The remaining 20 percent will be strategically picked by the party leadership. The party has also decided to split its electoral college into the general public (80 percent) and party members (20 percent) who regularly pay their dues.

The GNP’s ideas seem quite innovative and mesh well with the current tide of participatory democracy based on social networking platforms. The DUP is no exception: It plans to select 70 percent of its candidates through public participation in voting and 30 percent based on traditional top-down nominations.

The unprecedented change in procedure will require a revision of election law, as well as the cooperation of both parties, because they will have to choose their candidates on the same day with the government’s official election watchdog closely monitoring the process. Otherwise, party members could create serious problems via participation in the other party’s nomination race.

Only when both sides conduct nomination races on the same day will people accept the authenticity of the parties’ desire to change.
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