Red cards for the candidates

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Red cards for the candidates

The Korea Manifesto Center, a civic group established in 2006, has played an exemplary role in establishing policy-oriented election culture by demanding candidates running for elective office present workable commitments to the public. Thanks to its easy-to-read list covering five categories aimed at scrutinizing the feasibility of their pledges - goals, priorities, financial resources, funding methods and procedures for accomplishing the goals - anyone can easily check and monitor the reliability of candidates’ commitments.

At a press conference yesterday at the National Assembly, however, the center gave a stern warning to the three major presidential candidates in the December election - Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party, Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party and independent Ahn Cheol-soo - saying that none of them answered 33 questions sent by the center 20 days earlier. Apparently, they had different excuses.

Why is that? The three candidates had no problem submitting rudimentary campaign platforms to the National Election Commission a week ago. But when they had to submit detailed answers backed up by concrete funding methods and priorities to the center, they were not confident they could really meet those fastidious demands. That’s why the head of the group, Lee Kwang-jae, lamented their lack of credibility, saying all of them are “incompetent or cowardly.”

More fundamental reasons seem obvious. The Park Geun-hye camp has yet to reach a consensus on her detailed platform; the Moon Jae-in camp had trouble effectively assigning his platform duties to aides; and the Ahn Cheol-soo camp cannot answer back until Nov. 10, when he announces a full platform. With only 50 days left until the election, such a bleak political landscape demonstrates critical flaws of the presidential election this year.

The chaos in the Park camp was predicted when the conflict between Kim Chong-in, head of the so-called People’s Happiness Committee in charge of the economic planks of the platform, and Lee Hahn-koo, floor leader of the Saenuri Party, came to the surface. The Moon camp is now totally dedicated to the issue of how to field a single candidate representing the liberal camp, with no time to spare for hammering out detailed promises. The Ahn camp, meanwhile, continues to shy away from its foremost obligation to the public: to tell it what he stands for and what he would do as president.

All the candidates must take a deep breath and focus on their top priority: offering concrete pledges to the people before it’s too late.

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