The clock is tickingThe ruling Saenuri Party and opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) failed to strike a deal for fixing constituencies for the April 13 general election on Thursday - just a day before the deadline. If another day of negotiations cannot find a compromise, our lawmakers could violate the Public Official Election Act they enacted. If the two parties fail to strike a deal by the end of December in the worst case, a total of 246 constituencies across the country could evaporate, as the Constitutional Court declared that the current electoral districts will be null and void from Jan. 1, 2016.
If the worst case occurs, potential candidates will not be able to kick off their campaigns at all, while incumbent legislators can “take care of their constituencies” as part of their legislative activities. That constitutes a brazen deprivation of new figures’ rights to get elected and may trigger an avalanche of lawsuits after the election, which may lead to an unprecedented crisis for our hard-earned democracy.
It boils down to both parties’ greedy pursuits of partisan interests. The ruling party adhered to its position of slashing proportional seats in return for increasing the number of constituencies, while the opposition held on to its position of not cutting a single proportional seat. They are in a fierce battle to redraw the boundaries of electoral districts to their respective advantages, which has nothing to do with the noble cause of improving representation of the people. Moreover, the opposition reiterated its position that there is a need to increase the total number of seats in the National Assembly. The NPAD says it is willing to reach a compromise if the Saenuri Party agrees to its idea of increasing the total number by a maximum of seven. We are dumbfounded by the opposition’s relentless pursuit of this increase despite the public’s obvious opposition. The people do not want more lawmakers.
Politicians have never kept the deadline for submitting a finalized redistricting bill whenever they have been required to. Faced with public outrage, the legislature revised the law to wrap up its redistricting job five months before the election through an independent committee. However, both parties dragged their feet after dismissing the committee’s persistent call for standards needed for redistricting.
New political aspirants are campaigning without knowing what their constituencies are. That translates into a critical dereliction of duty. The parties must finish the job by the deadline on Friday.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 13, Page 34