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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on April 13)

All Headlines 08:54 April 13, 2016

Make your vote count

Today is election day. A general election to choose 300 lawmakers for the next four years is an important political event for the nation. Candidates from ruling and opposition parties should have engaged in heated debates to set the best course for the nation and come up with sincere commitments. But nowhere did we see such pledges. Instead, candidates blatantly begged for votes with populist catchphrases despite their unforgivable malpractices in the past.

You can hardly blame them for their fancy promises of development for their constituencies, and their slogans certainly reflect the yearnings of voters. Nevertheless, no one can trust their vows if they call for more than 1,000 trillion won ($874.5 billion) to implement. Moreover, criminal acts — such as malicious slanders against rival candidates and manipulation of opinion polls — nearly doubled compared to the last election, according to prosecutors. Candidates have been engrossed in a campaign totally without substance.

Korean politics still suffer from regressive traits such as deep-seated regionalism and the arrogance of gigantic political parties. Pundits define these traits as the biggest impediment to the country's future. The 19th National Assembly perfectly fits this description. Only deep soul-searching can lead to a new form of politics. Yet our politicians merely plead for forgiveness from voters or even try to scare them with threats to retire from the political scene.

The dirty drama over nominations of candidates on all sides played a big part in the run-up to the election. Fierce nomination battles are nothing new. But we have never seen such filthy fights between mainstream groups and fringe factions to pick their favorites. In the past, they at least upheld some principles, standards and causes. We have never seen such wide schisms between two opposing groups and the political distrust among voters, which is fueled by accusations of rigged opinion polls for nominations. The main opposition's mud fight with the splinter opposition party was just as bad.

Voter turnout is expected to be lower than ever. But citizens must exercise their right to vote in this election because any chance of change for our outmoded politics begins with ballots. The 19th Assembly showed that simply blaming legislators without punishment does not bring change. Today's election is held amid a deepening global economic slump and a serious security crisis from North Korea. The legislative election is also linked to the presidential election next year. Voters must cast their ballots today to hold our lawmakers accountable for their dereliction of duty over the last four years.
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