[Editorial] Dereliction of duty

By Korea Herald

National Assembly should hurry to finalize electoral map for June 13 poll

  • Published : Feb 23, 2018 - 17:08
  • Updated : Feb 23, 2018 - 17:08

It is not rare for the National Assembly to defy important deadlines -- like the one for endorsing a new state budget. It does not, however, lessen our frustration with its failure -- yet again -- to finalize the electoral map in time for the June 13 local elections.

The National Assembly had been deadlocked for two weeks due to partisan strife stemming from the implication of Rep. Kwon Sung-dong, chairman of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, in a scandal in which influential people solicited favors in getting their associates jobs at a casino.

The National Assembly resumed its business early this week, with many urgent legislative issues waiting to be tackled in the extraordinary session.

One of the most urgent tasks was to finalize the electoral map for the June 13 local elections and the numbers of council members to be elected in the quadrennial polls.

But the rival parties, bent on squabbling over a revision bill to the Constitution, failed to reach a compromise on how to draw the electoral map.

It is true that amendment of the basic law is an important and urgent issue to be handled by the Assembly. It is all the more so because time is running out for the plan to put a constitutional revision bill to a national referendum alongside the June 13 local elections.

But redrawing the electoral map reflecting the latest demographic changes is no less urgent. Most of all, the legal deadline for the work passed more than two months ago.

The current Public Officials Election Law requires the National Assembly to draw the electoral district for the local council of each metropolitan city and province. It also sets the total number of council members to be elected in each city and province.

Then the metropolitan and provincial councils -- based on the zones and numbers set by the National Assembly -- divide the electoral zones and numbers of council members for each of the smaller local councils in -si, -gun and -gu districts. This means more time is needed to finalize all the electoral maps even after the National Assembly reaches an agreement. Typically, that could be expected to take up to 15 days.

What’s outrageous is that all the work to draw the electoral maps for the June 13 local elections should have been finished by Dec. 13 last year -- six months prior to polling day -- under the Public Officials Election Law.

In other words, legislators who were mandated to make law are violating the law. A bigger problem is that this is not the first time. The National Assembly has defied the deadline for finalizing the electoral map from time to time, most recently before the 2014 local election and the 2016 parliamentary election.

What that does mean is that neither candidates nor voters know until shortly before the polling day how the electoral borders will be drawn. This is bound to cause confusion.

This time, the National Election Commission said it would receive registration of candidates from March 2 regardless of the lack of the electoral map. Candidates must register their candidacy based on the electoral districts of the last local election in 2014.

Therefore, some of the candidates should brace for last-minute changes to their electoral districts which should affect their campaign strategies. The rival parties should work fast to finalize the map at the earliest possible date to minimize confusion among candidates and voters.

The legislature’s repeated failures to draw electoral maps for major elections should also raise the voice to consider leaving the election zoning work to the National Election Commission or another independent panel instead of the National Assembly.