Voting for no one versus not voting

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Voting for no one versus not voting

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I have to confess that I once refused to vote when I was young. It was my way of expressing resistance against irrational politicians and was done out of frustration that my vote wouldn’t change a thing. I believed that it was irresponsible to choose the lesser of two evils. Now that I think about it, it was a childish, immature idea. After the passion of my young years faded, I realized that giving up could never be a form of resistance.

Of course, when I cast my vote now, I still have doubts. Whenever I vote for someone, I never have the conviction that the candidate will work for the country and its citizens without self-interest. I just think that I am choosing the lesser evil. Pledges too often turn into empty promises and successful candidates into warriors to defend their party interests. So I often regret my vote. The sense of helplessness makes voters weigh the consequences of giving up a vote or regretting it later.

Then came the recent re-election of the Osaka mayor, where more than 60,000 blank ballots were cast. It was refreshingly shocking - 67,500 Osaka residents visited polling stations to cast invalid votes. They accounted for 13.53 percent of the total vote. The election was criticized as a political show for Mayor Toru Hashimoto. In the previous election campaign, he promised to merge the Osaka prefectural and municipal governments. But when the city council opposed it, he resigned last month and sought re-election. The election cost 600 million yen ($5.87 million). Other major parties did not produce a candidate because they wanted no part of Hashimoto’s show. With only a few independent candidates running against Hashimoto, the victory was clearly his.

But the spotlight is on those who cast invalid votes, not Hashimoto. There were about 45,000 blank ballots, nearly double the next highest total of 24,004. About 20,000 ballots were invalid as the voters wrote, “Don’t stage a show” or “Spend taxpayers’ money wisely.” The Japanese media was stirred. Even the rightist-inclined Sankei Shimbun, which favors Hashimoto, whose reckless remarks please the ultraconservatives, called the re-election “too violent.”

The election turnout was 23.59 percent. More than three-quarters of Osaka voters didn’t participate. But nothing can be learned from non-participation. Those who went to the polling stations to cast invalid votes sent a warning to Hashimoto that what he was doing was wrong. They gave new meaning to the phrase “vote for a change.” The June 4 local elections are approaching. Korean voters need to ponder ways to change the world with our votes.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 27, Page 31

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

BY YANG SUNNY


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