Get the dirt out of the elections

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Get the dirt out of the elections

The shocking suicide of a campaign volunteer, surnamed Cho, who was working for a prominent politician seeking re-election in Gwangju, is a manifestation of the sharp gap between theory and reality when it comes to the new voting procedure enthusiastically touted by the opposition Democratic United Party.

In the run-up to the April 11 legislative elections, the DUP proudly introduced an open primary system in which an electoral college in a district casts votes while ordinary citizens vote using their mobile phones.

In promoting its new system, the DUP trumpeted the cause of participatory democracy for the mobile age. But the drummed-up initiative has only exposed all the dirty features of the past - cash-for-votes bribery, for instance - in a stunning departure from the election revolution of which the party was so proud.

With the suicide, the DUP hardly has a reason to scold outgoing National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae for having bought votes to get himself elected as head of the ruling Grand National Party (now the Saenuri Party).

In the community library run by Cho, investigators found a bunch of materials related to Park Joo-sun, a DUP lawmaker seeking re-election for a third term in Gwangju’s Dong District, suggesting the possibility that Park was engaged in illegal campaign activity.

The evidence includes a list of names from the 2012 census and a directory of mobile phone voters, in addition to a guide on how to nominate candidates for the upcoming April election. These documents can be accepted as solid evidence that Cho attempted to capitalize on the information in order to gather voters friendly to Park. Evidence of Cho’s potential involvement in vote buying was also discovered, including a registry of those who arranged meetings to gather support for Park in exchange for money.

In the DUP’s nomination races, the candidate who draws the most votes from the electoral college is supposed to win the nomination.

This procedure has given rise to various types of illegal activities, such as the acquisition of information on residents and registration of proxy voters. In Jangseong, South Jeolla, five high school students were arrested for lending their relatives’ and their own names to a nomination race where people could vote by mobile phone - at a rate of 4,500 won ($4) per hour. Han Myeong-sook, the DUP chairwoman, apologized for that. But the party must thoroughly investigate whether its officials are engaged in dirty dealings in other districts as well.


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