Two by-elections slated for July and October this year are likely to be rescheduled as rival parties on Friday agreed on the need to cut the number of elections, citing social costs and election fatigue among voters.
The ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party are expected to discuss the matter at a special parliamentary committee on politics reform to be held Tuesday. Although both sides have agreed to the idea of scaling down the number of elections, a partisan clash is expected as they differ on whether to hold the local elections and by-elections together.
The Saenuri Party prefers holding the July by-elections and the provincial elections together in June, while the DP wants to hold both of the by-elections at once in October.
Rescheduling a by-election requires lawmakers to revise the Public Official Election Act.
The current law on elections stipulates that by-elections are to be held twice every year in April and October. But by-elections to fill vacant parliamentary seats have to be held once if the country holds a presidential or general election in the same year.
“This year we have a tight schedule with a local election and also two by-elections. I suggest moving up the July by-election and holding it together with the provincial election (in June),” said Saenuri floor leader Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan.
Choi reiterated his idea during a meeting with Saenuri officials Friday, that the cost of holding three elections separately over five months would be huge.
DP floor leader Rep. Jun Byung-hun said it was not appropriate to hold local and by-elections at the same time because the characteristics of the two elections are different and may confuse voters. A local election is held to select new heads of provincial governments, councils and education offices.
“Local elections are to select regional authorities but (by-elections) are for lawmakers, representatives of the people. So, it is reasonable to hold the two by-elections together,” Jun said.
Later in the day, the DP stressed that the issue of rescheduling the elections should not come first before the debate over abolishing party nominations for candidates for provincial and parliamentary elections. The opposition party also criticized the Saenuri for trying to shift public attention.
“Now is not the time to discuss the timing of elections. We must continue to debate how (the ruling party) can keep its pre-election promise of banning party-based nominations in local elections,” said DP spokesperson Park Kwang-on.
President Park Geun-hye had told voters before the 2012 presidential elections she would rid local elections of party nominated candidates.
By Cho Chung-un and Jeong Hunny