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Gains from controversies over party nomination system
APRIL 12, 2014 05:00  
There is an old Chinese saying that one should think about the source of water when he drinks it. The moral is that one should appreciate the efforts of people who dug the well, rather than simply quenching thirst. The similar case occurred to me as I was watching the politics over the controversial abolishment of the party-centered nomination system for candidates running for local government offices. The developments provided me with an opportunity to why the call for the abolishment of such a nomination system was made in the first place.

It was Ahn Cheol-soo, co-chairman of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, who touched off and ended the controversy. He was the first one to pledge to abolish the system in the 2012 presidential election, causing other candidates to follow suit. He insisted on the abolishment until the last minute, before retreating from the pledge in accordance with the result of the party`s vote and public opinion surveys. It is still hard to understand how well he understood the harmful effects of the party-centered nomination system to make such a campaign promise. If there is any gain from the controversies, however, it would be to send the nomination system to a recycling factory.

No matter how much the party-centered nomination system is ridden with problems, various political parties use the system for a reason. I normally peruse election campaign materials delivered to my home during campaign periods. There are plenty of candidates I do not know, not to mention those running for local government offices. I often end up voting for one candidate because of his or her party affiliation. This is why party nomination is necessary in modern society where representative democracy is inevitable. There are, of course, flaws in the party nomination system, but it would be imprudent to discard a tool because of flaws, without trying to fix it.

Political parties should fix the problems with a sense of responsibility. Nominating candidates whom voters can vote for with confidence is basic. Lawmakers should not try to wield their influences over nomination processes or sell nominations for money. It would be a good idea if a party could take responsibility for losing its winning candidates due to irregularities; the party returns election expenses to the government and is also deprived of its right to register a candidate for subsequent by-elections.

Editorial Writer Lee Jin-nyong (jinnyong@donga.com)

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