The NEC chief must resign

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The NEC chief must resign

 National Election Commission (NEC) chief Noh Jeong-hee defied mounting pressure to resign over the controversy of her poor oversight of the March 9 presidential election. In a letter to staff on March 17, she maintained she would defend her title. Her behavior cannot be sympathized with no matter what.

Under Noh, the NEC was accused of the worst supervision of an election. The early voting process while the Covid-19 spread was ravaging the nation was pitifully handled. Ballots were carried around in baskets and used ballot cards were handed out to voters infected with the coronavirus. The fallouts have undermined the election principles of a democracy ensuring direct and secret voting for the people. Noh has lost eligibility to head the election watchdog whose primary role is to ensure fair elections. It’s just like the education minister resisting to resign despite a leak of answer sheets of a state college entry exam.

The NEC’s Secretary General Kim Se-hwan is no exception. After brushing aside strong demand for his liability, he only handed in his resignation when his son was found to have moved to the NEC from a meager position in a county office. Although Kim was right to be shown out the door, the NEC must not think the crisis is over. Noh must demonstrate accountability. She didn’t even report to work during the Friday-Saturday early voting period, although the voting took place amidst the wild Covid-19 wave. She excused herself because Saturday was a day off. Her explanation only underscores her lack of professionalism. The NEC’s 15-member oversight committee for local elections has already submitted a recommendation for her resignation.

It is the first time that standing commissioners have publicly demanded their chief resign immediately. The event itself is a blow to the confidence in Chief Commissioner Noh.

The local elections will be held on June 1. The NEC is not reliable for overseeing a fair election under the current structure. The chief commissioner has already lost public trust and the seats of the secretary-general and a standing commissioner are vacant. That’s not all. A commissioner’s seat for the opposition party’s recommendation also has yet to be filled. On top of that, six out of the seven commissioners are pro-ruling party. Noh must immediately resign and yield the helm to a fair and reputable figure. The empty seats of the secretary general and a permanent commissioner must be filled by bipartisan choices to ensure that the local elections in June can be held in a fair environment. The standing commissioner’s seat that had been questioned for neutrality due to nomination by the president must be filled by bipartisan agreement in the National Assembly.
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