Editorial; New Thrust for Political Development

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), January 18, 2000 | Go to article overview

Editorial; New Thrust for Political Development


While the political world slides into a deeper abyss, two significant developments have taken place: One is that the National Election Commission on Monday handed down a ruling that civic groups' publication of the names of blacklisted politicians unfit for the forthcoming April 13 general elections is illegal, and the other is President Kim Dae-jung's order that his ruling National Congress for New Politics renegotiate with the opposition party the agreed package of election reform bills.

The fresh developments will hopefully make progress toward sorting out the political chaos which stemmed from inter-party wrangling over the election law revisions and from the non-governmental organizations' aggressive political participation. Nonetheless, the presidential order and the NEC's ruling are sure to spawn new controversies between the rival parties and also between the political establishment and the NGO's.

The NEC's ``authoritative interpretation'' of the pertinent election law provisions is judged as proper and legitimate, on the grounds that civic groups' activities for or against the election of certain candidates are in violation of the law, specifically Article 87. The highest election watchdog revealed a plan to submit a revision bill to allow NGOs to participate in the political process.

No doubt, the NEC's step responds to the fact that many civic groups have started campaigns to bar personas non grata from being elected in the parliamentary contests. Notably, the Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice made public a list of 164 people who should not be nominated as candidates based on their own criteria. Most of those blacklisted were labelled as corrupt, incompetent, immoral or negative to reforms. The NEC served a warning against the CCEJ not to repeat the publication but stopped short of taking any legal action, apparently out of fears of a backlash from the organization.

Nevertheless, some 450 NGOs have followed suit and formed an alliance, the Citizens' Coalition for the 2000 General Elections, and is poised to publicize their own blacklisted politicians, defying the NEC's ruling. At the same time, the coalition has launched a drive against the election saying it is``unconstitutional.'' Their political campaign is gaining momentum with increasing support from the mass media and social strata, including a professors' association.

Now the pendulum is swinging in the favor of the NGOs' political participatio . Apparently cognizant of the trend, President Kim, during his Monday direction, specifically mentioned the need for abolition of Article 87, which prohibits social groups from undertaking election campaigns. The opposition Grand National Party has little justification to oppose the abolition or revision of the disputed law stipulations. …

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