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Policy-Based Elections Gaining Support

Posted February. 20, 2006 03:01,   


With 100 days left before the May 31 local elections, there is a growing push for political parties and candidates to take the elections as an opportunity to establish “policy-based” competition.

Some are arguing that they should change Korea’s antiquated election culture—typified by character assassination, pork-barrel pledges, voting based on academic, regional and blood ties, and money politics—and seek more “policy-oriented” elections by making attainable campaign promises and leaving themselves open to judgment by voters on that basis.

To meet this demand, Dong-A Ilbo plans to actively push for the upcoming local elections to be policy-based ones. This campaign, known as the Korean manifesto movement, will be carried out under the joint sponsorship of Dong-A Ilbo and the Korea Legislative Studies Institute (KLSI), an independent research institute headed by Professor Oh Yeon-cheon of the Seoul National University (SNU) Graduate School of Public Administration.

The campaign will be backed by the Manifesto Society of Keio University (Chair: Keio University Professor Sone Yasunori), which has been directly involved in the manifesto movement in Japan, and which has been conducting relevant research.

The manifesto movement first began in the United Kingdom in the early 19th Century. It was introduced in Japan during that country’s local elections in 2003, where it rapidly spread during last year’s lower house elections, and is now firmly established there.

The purpose of the campaign is to encourage candidates to refrain from making irresponsible pledges, such as abstract slogans or rosy proposals, and then ignoring them after the elections. By joining the movement and making attainable pledges, candidates can have substantial and constructive discussions with each other over specific measures for meeting policy goals and raising funds, making true policy-based elections possible.

Dong-A Ilbo and the KLSI will first examine the pledges made by candidates in the upcoming local elections in 16 cities and provinces to see if they meet the conditions suggested. When the elections are decided, we will evaluate how those pledges are being implemented every year. The movement will continue through the 2007 presidential election. To this end, a team in full charge of the manifesto movement (telephone: 02-784-5710) has been separately formed within the KLSI.

The National Election Commission (NEC), which is serving as election manager, plans to actively support the movement. The NEC will hold a “Grand National Discussion for the Establishment of a Korean Manifesto Movement” on February 23, and it will hold an “Agreement Ceremony for Practicing Policy-Based Elections” around March 10 together with political parties, academic leaders, and civic groups.

Jung-Hun Kim jnghn@donga.com