Wake up, lawmakersThe National Assembly’s Special Committee on Political Reform is a good example of how far politicians can go to further their own interests. One of their biggest problems is their incompetence in finalizing electoral districts, with only two months left before the legislative elections in April. In the meantime, overseas Koreans have started sending applications to the National Election Commission to cast their first absentee ballots. Meanwhile, the ruling Saenuri Party has begun receiving applications from aspiring candidates, while the opposition Democratic United Party does it beginning today.
But candidates from both parties are heading into the election without even knowing what their constituencies will be, just like students preparing for an exam without knowing what subjects they will be tested on.
Another committee overseeing the redistricting process sent the National Assembly a letter recommending that it divide eight districts based on population size and administrative convenience and merge five other districts. The ruling and opposition parties, however, are adhering to a vastly divergent idea of how to fix the redistricting problem. The Saenuri Party, in particular, does not accept any of the committee’s proposals for merging districts because some legislators fear they will lose their jobs when their districts are redrawn.
The problem does not end there. A proposal for helping political parties win victories in disadvantageous districts and the idea of allowing ordinary citizens to participate in candidate nomination races are likely to become empty slogans. The ruling and opposition parties have cited plausible reasons for these problems.
The implementation of a U.S.-style open primary, if introduced, could bring about a significant turning point in our democracy. Yet both parties have lost the opportunity to introduce such a system by wasting time hammering out their own nomination procedures. Without open primaries, which would be conducted on the same day under the supervision of the NEC, each party’s effort to draw ordinary citizens into its nomination process will surely be damaged.
Meanwhile, the defense reform bill pending in the National Assembly is another bill that is expected to be dumped into the trash thanks to a lukewarm response from lawmakers.
This demonstrates that whether it’s about defense reform or political reform, a bill is immediately frozen - or retreats - when it goes to the National Assembly. That’s why a majority of people are looking for change there.