NEC allows campaigning without new electoral map

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NEC allows campaigning without new electoral map

With no progress made by the legislature on redrawing the electoral map before the polls in April, the nation’s election watchdog has decided to allow registered candidates to campaign despite not having fixed constituencies.

The National Election Commission (NEC) on Wednesday issued a statement to address the legislative deadlock in creating a new constituency map. In the statement, the commission said that it sees the current situation as a serious emergency and that it will show necessary flexibility, while urging lawmakers to outline a new map by Jan. 8.

It further issued an ultimatum to the legislature, stating that it would take action if the ruling and opposition parties failed to create a new constituency map by that date, the last day of the National Assembly’s extra session for December.

The Constitutional Court ruled last year that the current electoral map resulted in unequal representation due to population changes and gave the legislature until end of 2015 to fix the disproportion. The court said the ratio of the most populous electoral district to the least populous must be lower than 2 to 1. The ratio is now 3 to 1.

Of the 300 seats in the National Assembly, 246 are for elected lawmakers, while the remainder is for proportional representatives.

The ruling and opposition parties have held several negotiating sessions with their chairmen over the past few weeks but failed to agree on the redistricting process.

At the same time, the commission said it will postpone the planned crackdown on illegal campaign activities by candidates who completed registration by the end of this year, even if the current electoral map becomes void on Jan. 1.

The preliminary registration period for April’s general election started on Dec. 15, and will end on March 23. The commission said candidates can still register in their current constituencies next year, though their applications will not be processed.

A registered candidate is allowed to open a campaign office, use signboards and hire up to three campaign workers. A candidate is also allowed to distribute name cards, send mobile phone messages and make campaign calls. “We have no choice but to withhold cracking down on campaign activities for the time being,” the NEC said in its statement.

The commission will still allow sitting lawmakers to contact voters in their districts even after the current constituency map becomes void next year. Even though there will be no electoral map for the 20th general election, current lawmakers may contact voters and brief them about their activities.

National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa gave the ruling and opposition parties until today to negotiate a new map. If no agreement is reached, Chung warned that he will use his power to introduce a plan for a vote after Jan. 1.

Under the law governing the National Assembly, the speaker has the power to introduce a bill directly for a vote without going through standing committees in times of national emergency. Chung is likely to introduce a bill that calls for the current formation of the National Assembly - 246 elected lawmakers and 54 proportional representatives - to remain unchanged.

In this case, the number of districts in populated urban areas would increase, while rural areas would lose seats.

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