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Competition rate for June 1 local elections hits record low

Competition rate for June 1 local elections hits record low

Posted May. 17, 2022 07:50,   

Updated May. 17, 2022 07:50


The competition rate for the June 1 local elections has hit a record low of 1.8:1, breaking the previous record of 2.3:1 in 2014. As many as 494 candidates, the highest in the past 20 years, are running uncontested, meaning they are guaranteed victory without voting. The number has increased five times compared to four years ago.

Lower competition rates and more candidates running uncontested is a worrisome sign because it shows that the meaning of local elections, which marks the eighth time, is fading. In fact, the competition rates for provincial councilors and municipal councilors, which have a large number of elected members, are only 2:1 and 1.7:1, respectively. Uncontested single-winner elections give rise to problems in that they deprive voters of their right to vote without giving them the opportunity to verify candidates’ pledges and qualifications.

These problems are noticeable in particular political parties and regions. For example, there are six candidates, who are running in uncontested single-winner elections for the head of local wards, and three of them are from Democratic Party in the Gwangju Jeonnam region and the rest are from People Power Party in the Daegu Gyeongbuk region. Those who are running in uncontested single-winner elections for provincial and municipal councilors, are concentrated in Yeongnam and Honam regions, the home turf for a particular political party. This inevitably leads to distortion of local politics. Since the chances of winning are high if candidates win party nomination, candidates have no choice but to make connections with powerful lawmakers and focus on recruiting party members.

As a result, political novices find it hard to enter politics. Even if they are interested in local autonomy, many of them do not even dare to run for office because their chances of winning are low. This is the main reason why grassroots democracy is not taking root and the competition rate for local elections are on the decline. Nevertheless, lawmakers and the chairmen of party cooperation committees are busy nominating people, who have helped or will help their elections. They are not even interested in filtering out unqualified candidates. It is said that 30 percent of the entire uncontested single-winners in this local elections have a criminal record.

With the local elections being held as an extension of the March 9 presidential election, competition centered on the two major parties is repeating itself. There is no room for young politicians, who do not belong to major political parties, to participate. It is embarrassing that the local elections are fixed in this way. In addition to reforming the nomination process, it is time to find ways to improve the local election process, such as expanding the medium constituency system, which is being piloted in 30 electoral districts for municipal councilors.