Shame on the electoral committee

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Shame on the electoral committee

The National Assembly has failed to come up with a new electoral map to elect the next members of the legislature by the Dec. 31 deadline set by the Constitutional Court.

As of midnight Jan.1, all 246 electoral districts have become illegitimate.

National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa demanded bipartisan consensus on a new electoral map to select 300 legislative members including 246 representatives of constituencies by Tuesday. But the subcommittee of the National Election Commission, representing the ruling and main opposition parties, failed to reach an agreement over the weekend without setting a new date for the next meeting. The bizarre case of absence of constituency could last longer if the delineation is not submitted before the ad hoc session ends on Friday.

The subcommittee missed the first deadline to revise electoral map by October, six months ahead of the April election. New members joined the committee in order to prevent the first-ever vacancy of legal constituencies since the country has been based on constitutional electoral democracy. We have to doubt the ability of the subcommittee.

The committee’s incompetency has been in question since its formation in May last year. Apart from the chair, who is from the National Election Commission, its eight other members are evenly appointed by the ruling and main opposition parties. Gerrymandering dominated the meetings. In the last meeting on Saturday, members wrangled over the one seat reserved for farming and fishing areas. The ruling party representatives pitched for Chungcheong while their opposition counterparts argued for Jeolla, the traditional voting base for left-leaning parties.

Korea is the only democratic country without a legal electoral district facing the election just three months away. Hopeful candidates do not know what districts they are to represent. The legitimacy of the April 13 parliamentary election is at risk.

The rivaling parties must hurry to reach a consensus before the National Assembly speaker uses his power to directly pass a compromise proposal. In the long run, the subcommittee authorized to draw the electoral map must be institutionalized as an independent body. Party representatives should be restricted to three, and the other three should be recommended by the National Election Commission to expedite neutral and reasonable compromise.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 4, Page 30

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