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[Editorial] Popular Activism, Process Must Be Fair

Posted August. 31, 2001 08:34,   


The constitutional court threw out the NGO`s (General Elections NGO) appeal which argues that the current election law prohibiting civilian campaign to defeat election nominees as `violation of the people`s constitutional right to vote`. The constitutional court judged that citizen activism must also maintain a fair and just process and proceed in a legally suitable manner. The decision marks a definitive resolution of the matter, which was numerously confirmed by the convictions at the NGO-related criminal trial last year on April 13.

It is true that the intention to rid of old-fashioned politics and antiquated politicians behind the activism to defeat nominees received much applause. Furthermore, it played a considerable role in destroying political power built on personal relations and bringing in a new person into the 16th National Assembly. The court noted that a fair election fundamentally means a law-abiding election, and if a NGO breaks the law in the name of fair elections, it contradicts itself and will inevitably cause a troublesome aftermath.

If a NGO thinks that an election law is unreasonable, it should seek an amendment to the law or appeal for a new legislation. To disregard, the court criticizes, the law in the name of `the purpose of public welfare` is to create disorder and confusion. The court explained its rejection saying, ``A discriminatory regulation that permits only NGOs from carrying on such campaign may cause some candidates to silently abuse it to slander their opponents.``

In fact, the negative campaign has been a talk of `silent abuse` during the general elections and has damaged the NGO`s fairness and reputation. Some candidates involved with NGOs have benefited from the relationship while other are said to have been hurt by it. In some districts, this has even become a legal issue. The case shows that popular activism founded on good intentions and noble vision will ultimately fall into disorder and contradictions if it crosses the law.

The NGO has been called `red guards of political power` during the general election, and similar criticisms have been leveled at the events surrounding the newspaper tax investigations. The recent court decision provides an opportunity for close self-examination. Currently, tax investigation findings cannot be made public but the NGO has argued for `making public newspaper tax investigation results` in the name of media reform. This also disregards the law. They must realize that even if they are working for the public good, disregarding the law will only cause further harm and make it difficult to achieve any good.