The blind election
Concerns are rising that turnout for the April 13 general election will fall below 40 percent, which would be the lowest ever. As of March 13, the ruling Saenuri Party only completed nominations in 107 out of 253 electoral districts nationwide. The Minjoo Party of Korea finished nominations in 137 districts, and the People’s Party did so for 68 constituencies. Because the National Assembly created a new electoral map far after the deadline, voters were only recently able to find out where their districts are. Now, they are going to cast ballots without even knowing who the candidates are.
The pledges were also extremely poor. The Saenuri Party presented several promises, but most were reiterations of the government’s policies. The Minjoo Party and People’s Party were no different. Most of the pledges were similar to those of the ruling party. They were nothing more than face-saving measures for the campaigns.
We had high hopes that the upcoming election would be a fierce competition of policies. The ruling party pushed forward labor market reform, insisting that it is a national emergency. The opposition parties also argued they are focusing on the people’s livelihoods and national security.
The unemployment rate is high, and exports have continued to plunge for two consecutive years. The North conducted its fourth nuclear test and the country is in a diplomatic conundrum over the U.S. plan to deploy an advanced missile defense system in South Korea. But these issues have disappeared with less than a month left before the election. The election is being overshadowed by mudslinging between the ruling and opposition parties over nominations and candidacy consolidations.
Although the parties fought over nominations in the past, it was never this serious. Before the general election in 2008, the ruling and opposition parties debated the four-rivers restoration project. Before the 2012 general election, they fought over welfare issues. But this time, they don’t even try. They are just obsessed with their own power struggles.
The politicians have become so shameless because they are not desperate. Believing in the support of their strongholds, they are trying solely to please factional leaders.
A political party concerned more with winning elections than creating good policies has no reason to exist. The ruling and opposition parties must finalize their nominations fairly and quickly, and get back to their policies. Otherwise, they will face the voters’ stern judgments.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 14, Page 34