Parties fail to deliver on platforms

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Parties fail to deliver on platforms

On March 14, then-Saenuri chairman Kim Moo-sung declared a policy platform to appeal to female voters in the middle of a heated campaign for the April general election. Kim promised that the governing party would set up so-called mother centers throughout the country that would look after women by providing tailored services during and after pregnancy.

“If I fail to deliver by May 30, 2017, then I will return all of my salary as a lawmaker to state coffers,” proclaimed Kim.

On the same day, Kim Chong-in, who was then heading the opposition Minjoo Party, also made a grand promise, saying his party would nullify any household debt less than 10 million won ($8.928) if that debt was 10 years overdue and if that household was earning a low income.

The People’s Party was no exception to making bold promises. It campaigned that it would introduce a procedure by which a lawmaker could be voted out if 15 percent of constituents agreed on a no-confidence vote.

None of the three promises have been submitted to the parliament so far, after more than 110 days following the start of the 20th National Assembly, sparking criticism that parties rely too much on populist and unrealistic policy platforms for the sake of winning votes.

In fact, of the 60 policy promises made by the ruling Saenuri for the general election, only 20 of them have been submitted to the parliament so far.

As for the Minjoo Party, 24 out of its 43 pledges have been proposed to the Assembly, while the People’s Party submitted 31 of its 44 pledges.

For the ruling party, setting up mother centers around the country was the centerpiece of its campaign platform, with a direct aim to appeal to female voters at a time when the country is agonizing over having one of the lowest birth rates in the world.

It campaigned that it would set up state-funded caring centers for soon-to-be mothers and mothers in every town in the country. No visible effort has yet been made to deliver on that promise.

“Due to the party’s defeat in the general election, momentum to aggressively push through its campaign promises has lost steam,” said Kim Jong-seok, president of the Saenuri-funded Youido Institute, a policy research center.

Kim said he had recently reported to party chairman Lee Jung-hyun on the Saenuri’s work on policy platforms. “We will begin work to deliver on the platforms after a review of next year’s budget.”

The Minjoo Party is not spared from criticism, either, as it has not presented any work on its promise to relieve the debt of low-income families who have had debt of less than 10 million won for 10 years or more. Minjoo Rep. Kim Young-joo said such a bill requires a thorough consultation with the government as “it could bring into question issues of moral hazard.”

As for the People’s Party’s promise concerning the ability to vote lawmakers out, Rep. Kim Song-sik, who heads the party’s policy team, said introducing such a bill requires an amendment to the Constitution.

“With regard to other policy promises,” said Kim, “we are planning to submit bills covering all of them by the end of the ongoing general session.”
Political observers say a system in which voters can check on how well a party is keeping its words needs to be introduced.

“In every election, a party makes a promise that bears no chance of being legislated,” said Ka Sang-joon, professor of political science at Dankook University. “And voters often fall prey to this even when they know it is an outlandish promise. We need to introduce a system that keeps track of how a party makes good on its pre-election platforms.”

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