Parties vow to stay away from local elections

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Parties vow to stay away from local elections

The ruling and opposition parties yesterday took a step toward getting out of local elections, one of their pledges from last year’s presidential election, to promote autonomy in regional democracy.

The political reform committee of the ruling Saenuri Party said yesterday it will temporarily scrap the current system of fielding candidates in elections for regional governments and local councils in cities, counties and districts.

The party, however, said it will evaluate the system after 12 years and three rounds of local elections, to see if it should go back to fielding candidates.

The main opposition Democratic Party also announced yesterday its decision to take a similar action. Political Science Professor Kim Tae-il of Yeungnam University, who heads the Democratic Party’s committee on the nomination reform, held a press conference yesterday and announced the decision.

“We had in-depth discussions on the pros and cons of scrapping the nomination system,” he said. “And we came to the conclusion that ending the current system is desirable.”

The next local elections take place on June 4, 2014. The ruling and opposition parties are feeling pressured to carry out reforms, particularly of their top-down nomination systems, with steady public disgust in business-as-usual politics. Independent politicians such as Ahn Cheol-soo have become increasingly popular, and established politicians and their parties are left with little choice but to start giving up some of their power.

Under the current system, the parties’ nomination committee fields candidates for national and local elections.

During last year’s presidential campaign, Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in promised that the party will not field candidates for local elections. Under Moon’s proposal, the party would put up candidates for provincial governors and city mayors but no positions below them.

A similar promise was also made by Saenuri presidential candidate Park Geun-hye.

Kim of the DP said yesterday that the current system infringes upon local autonomy because regional politics became subordinate to central party politics. “Transparency and corruption issues also emerged, and the party lost the people’s support,” Kim said.

The party’s Supreme Council will approve the nomination system reform today.

The leadership has promised to accept the committee’s conclusion, whichever way it decides. There is, however, still a possibility that the party will hold a vote for all its members to adopt such a major change.

If both parties decide to get out of local elections, it will have to be deliberated by the National Assembly’s political reform committee and the election law would have to be revised.

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