Is the party progressive?
UPP advised to let prosecution probe rigging
Despite its relatively good performance in the just-ended parliamentary elections, the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP) is ailing with suspicions of internal primary election wrongdoings. The alleged fraud comes as a shock to those who trusted the party’s morality and honesty. This means that while the UPP voices purity and progress, what it is doing is allowing outdated malpractice and factional strife.
The latest election scandal erupted on April 18 when a party member posted a message on the UPP website under the title ``Condemning the Rigged Primary.’’ Lee Cheong-ho, who is in charge of a district in Busan, revealed in the post that there had been vast irregularities in primary voting to elect the party’s proportional representation candidates.
Suspicions were raised primarily against the party’s mobile ballot box and online voting systems. The UPP, which won 13 seats, including six proportional representation candidates, in the April 11 National Assembly elections, held a primary to select the latter from March 14 to 18. All party members could vote in three ways: in person at a polling station, through the party’s website or through mobile phones. If more than 30 party members asked for a ballot box, a party official carried a box to one location so that the voting could be done. Party officials said the mobile ballot box was abused as only one official controlled and delivered it with most party members unaware of the system. In online voting, source codes were disclosed while the voting was going on.
What we see in the UPP’s primary was disappointing enough in that the progressive party has lashed out at other larger parties harshly taking issue with their poor internal democracy. What’s shocking is that the rigging was allegedly done by the NL (National Liberation) group, a pro-North Korea group that is taking a dominant position in the party.
In fact, the left-leaning party suffered a humiliation in mid-March when Rep. Lee Jung-hee, a co-leader of the party, gave up her candidacy for the parliamentary elections, taking responsibility for survey rigging in connection with the alliance with the main opposition Democratic United Party. A similar rigging allegedly took place in 2006 when the now-defunct Democratic Labor Party (DLP) held a convention to elect a party leader.
After the scandal erupted, the UPP pledged a thorough investigation into the case, saying it will announce the results of its internal probe in early May. Legally, it will be difficult for the National Election Commission (NEC) to punish those responsible for the fraud case because the Election Law usually does not cover primaries. Political experts advise the UPP to consider asking the prosecution to investigate the case, noting that its own audit results might not convince critics.
Last but not least, the party should show its clear position on North Korea this time. It would be anachronistic to see some of the party’s members who are North Korea sympathizers given seats.