[Letters] Key is not the quantity, but quality of participation

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[Letters] Key is not the quantity, but quality of participation

The time has come for the citizens to vote for the presidential candidates for the parties. The Democratic Unified Party has encouraged the participation of hundreds thousands of voters through the mobile voting system in the party convention. The opposition party has also successfully organized their open primary. Citizens’ enthusiasm, voting convenience and the parties’ promotions were combined to amplify the effort. That was the precise reason to use the mobile voting system.

However, contrary to high expectations, the registration of voters in the party primary remained about 50 percent of the target, and turnout was also very low. The party is arguing over the party leadership’s management and supervision of the voting.

There can be a few conclusions to draw from this. Some say the voting result was predictable because of the solid front-runner, and others say factionalism and party hegemony are the causes. But those are only superficial analyses of the situation. They are not enough to explain the lack of participation on mobile voting and general indifference on the part of the voters. In the end, the fundamental cause has to be found through in-depth analysis on the internal motivation of the citizens who participated.

From the citizen’s position, the current mobile voting was groundbreaking in terms of “quantity of participation” but did not guarantee “quality of participation.” In fact, when the Democratic United Party determined the rules and methods of mobile voting, they were mostly discussed among party leaders and candidates. They wanted the voters to participate, but the party created the stage as they wished. Also, citizens have become tired of the battle among the candidates over the reception error. Voters were treated as secondary agents, not the primary participants. As a result, mobile voting grew distant from citizens’ attention.

Rather than technical and systematic errors, failure to guarantee the quality of participating in mobile voting resulted in lack of participation.

Of course, we have hopes that the system will improve over time. Still, the split of the Unified Progressive Party was inspired by the online election scandal, so we cannot expect gradual improvement soon. In order for mobile voting to become a true ground of participation for voters, technical assistance and server maintenance need to be reinforced. Also, exclusively-organized voting needs to be opened to guarantee the transparent and fair operation of the system.

The history of democracy has always progressed by expanding the boundary of participation and supplementing quality of participation. Considering the problems with mobile voting so far, the most significant issue of the party primary is to enhance the quality of participation rather than merely boosting its numbers. Now that the political parties are determined to seek democratic legitimacy and enhance political attention through participation, they need to make every effort to elevate the quality of participation.

by Ji Min-gu Konkuk University student
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