Time to let the locals be

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Time to let the locals be

The Democratic Party has decided to give up its right to nominate candidates for local government positions, such as the county or city district office head. The opposition party also proposed to the ruling Saenuri Party that they jointly revise the election law so that the new rule can be applied to the local elections slated for next June.

In fact, both the ruling and opposition parties vowed to relinquish their nomination rights during the December presidential election campaigns. But the legislation was delayed by a strong backlash from lawmakers of both parties who don’t want to lose their power over local elections.

The opponents argued that stripping themselves of the nomination rights would only give advantages to a small group of people with influence over - and connections with - local residents. They said it would block new faces from emerging on the political stage. They also contended that without the nomination rights, women and disabled people would have a much tougher time getting into politics.

However, these problems were raised even before both parties wrapped up their campaign platforms in the last presidential election. That’s why both parties pledged to give up the rights in a move to reduce excessive intervention in local autonomy and eliminate the pressure they put on heads of local governments and councilmen and women. They made the commitment to reform the conventional power dynamics. But they dragged their feet until the DP took the lead in picking up the challenge despite some side effects expected from the new experiment. More than two thirds of the members of the opposition party voted for the change. The overwhelming support clearly shows that ordinary citizens are keenly aware of the adverse effects of the nomination rights.

The Saenuri Party expediently chose to not exercise their nomination rights in the April by-elections without reaching a conclusion on the issue. As those who were elected for local government positions after running independently try to return to the ruling party, it is poised to accept all of them, which make us doubt the party’s will to reform.

The only solution lies in revising the law. If the ruling and opposition parties fail to enact the new law and again just choose to not exercise their nomination rights in next June’s local elections, it will cause an even bigger confusion and more headaches. Both camps must expedite the legislation on the reform before it’s too late. Our local autonomy is mature enough to overcome any unwanted side effects from the reform.
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