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True local policies missing in June 1 local elections

Posted May. 13, 2022 07:54,   

Updated May. 13, 2022 07:54


The registration for the candidates running for the June 1 local elections opened Thursday for two days. The upcoming elections will winnow out 17 heads of metropolitan municipalities, 226 heads of municipalities as well as local and provincial councilors. The elections for the superintendents of education in 17 cities and provinces and the by-elections for seven parliamentary districts will also be held without party nominations. Official campaigning will be kicked off for 13 days starting on May 19.

While the local elections are right around the corner, however, true “localness” seems to be missing in the campaign field. The candidates are bombarding voters with pledges to revive the local economy, but their responses are lukewarm. One survey found that more than half the respondents were “indifferent” to the superintendent of education elections. It appears the elections are becoming “blind ballot-casting” where the calibers of each candidate or their policy for the local economies are put on the backburner.

It is regrettable that President Yoon Suk-yeol and Lee Jae-myung, the standing advisor to the Democratic Party, took on the frontline right before the elections. While still in the capacity of the president-elect, Mr. Yoon joined the traveling with the candidates of the People Power Party across the country. It was practically part of an electioneering to urge voters to cast their ballot for the candidates from the empowered ruling party. While there is no stipulation codified under the election law that obligates the president-elect to maintain neutrality, President Yoon should not have stepped out of the line and invited the allegation of election-meddling.

Lee Jae-myung, on the other hand, came back in two months after the bitter loss at the presidential race, which is apparently aimed to rally his supporters for the local elections. While it was a close defeat by 0.73 percentage points, Lee’s return was far from desirable, with the due, long contemplation about the loss of the election clearly unfulfilled. Even worse, Lee is running for a seat in the Gyeyang district of Incheon, far from his long-standing political stronghold at Bundang, Seongnam, a decision that appears not based on any cause.

It was practically an extension of the fierce fight Yoon and Lee had two months ago. Or the two men are finding themselves at a cul-de-sac, jockeying for a chance to claim the political dominance after the elections. Regardless of who wins, concerns are fueling that this will make the most “unlikeable” local elections in the country’s history.

It has been 27 years since we ushered in an era of local elections in a bid to establish a grassroot democracy. There have been seven iterations, but none defiled the spirit of the election by popular vote more than the June 1 local elections. Perhaps, it may not be feasible to entirely exclude the influence of central politics with the tooth of nominations, but the unique realm of local politics must be preserved as much as possible. If the local elections morph into a proxy war of national politics, it would be impossible to drive a competition of policies that can make a practical difference to improve the lives of local people.