Posted : 2012-11-22 16:50
Updated : 2012-11-22 16:50

Election and debates

Voters deserve far better ways of communication

On Wednesday night the two liberal presidential hopefuls held their first, and last, policy debate before they unify their candidacies.

The debate came too late and too late at night.

It is unthinkable to expect the electorate to have sufficient time and data to pick who may lead the nation for the next five years with just one, hurriedly-arranged debate held four days before the candidate registration deadline.

Worse yet, voters must have felt too burdensome to watch the 100-minute verbal battle that started no earlier than 11:15 p.m. Little wonder the combined viewing of the three broadcasters remained at little over 18 percent.

Even considering the event had the limitation of a primary within the opposition camp, the dismal ratings compares with the more than 30 percent for the final Obama-Romney debate, watched by up to 67 million Americans. Both the time-pressed candidates and income-oriented broadcasters are to be blamed.

The discussion itself progressed in too courteous an atmosphere to spark excitement. Both Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer and presidential chief of staff in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, and Ahn Cheol-soo, an erstwhile doctor and computer virus guru, showed good manners and consideration toward each other but failed to give a strong impression to the electorate as to why one and not the other should represent the liberals in the Dec. 19 poll.

All this shows the debate would not have the supposed effect of playing a decisive role in opinion polls that will select a single candidate scheduled for the weekend. The ruling Saenuri Party was not entirely wrong when it mocked the debate as being flat and uninspiring. But the conservatives are ill-qualified to criticize progressive oppositionists because their candidate, Park Geun-hye, has steadfastly refused to hold a three-way debate under the pretext of the delayed procedure for candidacy unification, fearing a trilateral debate would be a two-against-one battle, and not without reason.

But Park, a veteran politician with lots of experience in election debates, can hardly avoid criticism for repeatedly turning down opposition proposals, especially those from Ahn, a political novice. By positively responding to debates, two-way or three-way, the four-term lawmaker, sometimes dubbed the ''election queen," should have shown she is a leader undaunted by challenges. She also could have given the electorate an opportunity to compare how the three contenders' policies are different in detail and who is best suited for the top office with sufficient preparation and quick reactions to unexpected situations.

When it comes to communication with voters, all three runners, especially Park and Ahn, have many problems, as shown by their frequent refusals to field journalists' questions at press meetings. Too often, they leave after just reading announcements or take pre-arranged questions on limited subjects.

That should change now that the election is almost upon us. The three remaining debates between two finalists should be completely different. At least they share the responsibility to prevent the 19th presidential poll from becoming the strangest campaign in election history.

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