Political Issues Fading as Campaign Theme as Candidates Come under Closer Scrutiny over Tax, Military Records

Article excerpt

The nation's electoral culture is undergoing a crucial change, with the political issues almost being ignored due to the close scrutiny of candidates' personal records of military service and taxation.

Unlike the previous elections, dominated by the political issues, the current campaign is characterized by a grim pre-election inquisition into the candidates.

On Monday and Tuesday, when the National Election Commission put candidates' personal military and tax records on public notice, the entire media concentrated light on them, shelving the political issues.

Reflecting the intense interest of voters in the candidates' personal records, the NEC's Internet home page, containing the records of the 1,040 candidates, became jammed due to the amount of people logging on.

The candidates, for their part, are now briskly issuing explanatory statements about their tax and military service records, after completely stopping issuing politically-charged statements.

The closer attention being paid to candidates, according to political observers, results from the blacklist campaign staged by civic groups from early this year.

A group called ``Civic Alliance for 2000 General Elections'' issued the list of ``unqualified'' candidates, including many senior politicians, to the applause of voters.

As seen in the positive response toward the boycott campaign, reflecting antipathy toward politicians, whether a candidate is clean or not appears to count more than his party affiliation or political line, an observer at the opposition Grand National Party said.

Given such a change in the political consciousness of voters, ``petty, personal'' issues are likely to dominate over the traditional political issues, such as if whether the government is ``democratic'' enough, the official said. …