Voters must choose wisely

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Voters must choose wisely

Today is Election Day. Since their inception in 1995, local elections have contributed much to establishing a grassroots democracy and keeping the central government’s monopolistic power in check.

Thanks to voters directly choosing their local administrative heads and council members, the elections led to a fundamental shift in the administration’s local governance paradigm. In just two decades, local autonomy has become a crucial part of people’s lives.

As voters’ choices are an unequivocal barometer of their affection for their communities, they must cast ballots to help better the future of their own community. It is fortunate that voter turnout for local elections - which is generally lower than in presidential or general elections - has been gradually rising. In the first local elections in 1995, 68.4 percent of registered voters cast ballots. The number fell to 48.9 percent in 2006 and went up slightly to 51.6 percent four years later, followed by 54.5 percent in 2010. With preliminary voter turnout already registering 11.5 percent, the National Election Commission expects it will exceed 60 percent this time.

Each vote is a message to politicians. As the decision is irreversible, it is quite different from opinion polls. We recommend voters make their decisions based on three crucial factors: candidates’ political affiliations, personality and platforms. After the disaster of the Sewol ferry sinking, the ruling Saenuri Party and opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy came up with contrary slogans. The latter seeks to “punish the Park Geun-hye administration” for its lethargic response to the tragedy, while the former urges voters to “protect the president.” Even though this election is all about grass-roots democracy, it still revolves around the central government. But voters must not cast ballots based on preference for a particular party.

Each candidate’s qualities as a community member must not be ignored. This election is about picking qualified people for the 17 mayoral posts of special and large administrative cities and for 226 small-city mayors, county and district heads, as well as 3,687 local council members across the country. They administer a whopping 600 trillion won ($585.9 billion) of the budget for the next four years. Unless voters fully take into account each candidate’s criminal record, military duty and so on, as explained in the election bulletin, it goes nowhere. If voters don’t filter out inappropriate candidates, a 900 billion won election is wasted. It all depends on the wise choices of voters.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 4, Page 26

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