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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Herald on March 2)

All News 07:00 March 02, 2016

After drawing the map
Electoral map finalization requires follow-up action

The long-awaited completion of the electoral remapping for the April 14 parliamentary poll leaves some work to be done -- by the election watchdog, political parties and voters.

First of all, there should be an overhaul of the way electoral districts are redrawn, so that it is free from interference by political parties.

The redistricting of the parliamentary constituencies was necessitated by the Constitutional Court’s ruling in October 2014 that the population of the biggest constituency should not exceed twice that of the smallest one.

Given past experiences, political parties seemed to have made a sensible decision when they agreed to entrust the remapping work to the National Election Commission. The NEC launched an ad-hoc committee in July last year.

But the panel had inherent problems. The biggest one was that, except for the chairman -- an NEC official -- all the members were nominated by the ruling and main opposition parties -- four from each side. To make it worse, any agreement required a two-thirds majority.

This made it difficult for the panel to reach a compromise, and it waged a seemingly endless proxy war between the parties, which were each bent on redrawing the map to their own advantage.

The result was that the panel managed to finalize its proposal 139 days after the Oct. 13, 2015, legal deadline and only 45 days before polling day.

This stupidity should not be repeated. Political parties and the NEC should start discussions on how to draw the electoral map for the 20th National Assembly to be elected in 2020.

The most important thing is to give the mapping panel an absolute political neutrality and make sure political parties not interfere with any decision made by the panel. What’s essential is to give the NEC full authority to appoint the panel members.

The long delay in the finalization of the electoral districts has already caused many problems. In addition, the new map itself has some problems -- like suspected cases of gerrymandering -- and some candidates have already threatened legal action against the panel’s decision.

Political parties and the NEC panel cannot avoid blame for causing so much confusion among candidates and voters. Yet, time is running out for election preparations -- the most pressing work is parties’ nomination of candidates and NEC’s preparations for absentee ballots. For now, all concerned parties and authorities should focus on holding the election as scheduled.

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