Debate with no strings attached

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Debate with no strings attached

The three candidates for the December presidential election are still engrossed in a game of blaming their opponents for the lack of a first televised debate. Given all the uncertainties over their platforms, we are deeply concerned about the ominous ramifications of a presidential election - even without a TV debate.

A close aide to independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo claimed that KBS’ scheduled TV debates were canceled due to the ruling Saenuri Party’s candidate Park Geun-hye’s refusal to participate. The opposition Democratic United Party’s contender Moon Jae-in’s camp has expectedly sided with Ahn’s camp, denouncing Park by saying, “If she does not change her position, voters will probably not watch any TV debates - barring three TV debates stipulated by the law.” The Park camp rebutted the criticism by saying, “The TV debates were postponed because of KBS’ own problem, not because of us.” The Park camp added that they only suggested to the public broadcasting company that it would be better for Park to join a TV debate after the liberal camp reaches a conclusion on the issue of fielding a single candidate in the liberal camp.

However, this discord between rival candidates only pours cold water over the voters’ growing expectations for a heated race based on concrete policies. A TV debate is a pivotal mechanism to verify and scrutinize what attitudes and ideas presidential candidates maintain. Since Park, Moon and Ahn became presidential candidates in September, no debates - whether televised or not - were held.

That’s in sharp contrast with the 2002 presidential election, when a total of 27 debates, including conversations, were held and the 2007 presidential election when 11 debates were held. So far, Park has singled out the uncertainty over the potential consolidation between Moon and Ahn as the biggest obstacle to the trilateral debate. Meanwhile, Moon and Ahn have been reluctant to join the debates while blaming the Park camp for thwarting the debates over unreasonable grounds.

In America, incumbent President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney had constructive battles in three televised debates based on their detailed platforms. But a number of voters still harbor strong suspicions, wondering if the candidates’ critical lack of confidence in their policies led to passive attitudes about the debates. All of them should respond to voters’ doubts by tossing out their campaign methods of one-way rallies held by supporters. The three candidates must clearly express their views on various issues - with no strings attached.
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