Before the 21st election of 300 National Assembly members on April 15, the Satellite Party (위성정당) is embroiled in controversy. As the revised Public Official Election Act was passed in December of last year, a semi mixed-proportional representation system (준연동형 비례대표제) will be applied for the first time in a Korean election. However, the major parties have been trying to exploit this act by calling the party’s actions ‘foul play’ to raise their number of seats. The confrontation between the parties and the increase in the number of parties are intensifying the voters’ confusion.
Appearance of a “satellite party”
On December 25 of last year, the first leading opposition Liberty Korea Party (자유한국당) noticed that they will create another satellite party that will be dedicated to the proportional representation election against the revised system, which was introduced to reflect voters’ intent without distortions.
It is a scenario in which they only retain a number of proportional representation seats from the voters who advocate for the conservative camp as a satellite party, the Future Korea Party (미래한국당), regardless of the number of elected constituency candidates. At the same time, the original party retains the number of seats by running a candidate only in a district system election as a Future Integration Party (미래통합당), which was newly established with many conservative camps including the Liberty Korea Party.
Every party faced a confused situation
Hence, a satellite party existing only for the apportionment of seats has become a controversial issue. Jang Young-su, Korea University Law School’s professor, said that under the current law, there is no substantive enactment that prohibits the satellite party. “It can be a problem if they specify their real purpose in the party constitution, but they did not. So it may be a ‘trick(꼼수)’ but it cannot be illegality.”
Hereupon, the ruling party Democratic Party of Korea (더불어민주당) decided to participate in another satellite party depending on results of a party member vote, because the dominant view is that the satellite party Korea Party (미래한국당) can have more than 20 seats in this election. On March 17, the Citizen Party (더불어시민당) was established with the participation of five other lesser-known political parties in the progressive camp.
However, the Political Reform Coalition (정치개혁연합), which was newly created to push a coalition including the Citizen Party against a satellite party strategy and disband after the general election, is taking a step on the party disbandment from March 24. They stated, “We express regret that the Democratic Party has not participated in a proper coalition but has made another satellite party.” In addition, minor political parties the Green Party (녹색당) and the People Livelihood Party (민생당) notified their intention not to attend the Citizen Party.
Respond to foul play with foul play?
There is also an insistence that ‘foul play’ should not be allowed in any shape or form. A Justice Party (정의당), which had six seats in the last election, expressed their intention that they will not participate in any kind of satellite party. On March 24, they requested an Adjudication on a constitutional complaint about the nullity of the Future Korea Party (미래한국당).
Sim Sang-jung, who is the leader of the Justice Party, said, “Although the enactment (semi mixed proportional representation system) was inadequate, we were responsible for this and have to make an effort to retain the purpose of its enactment.” Besides, criticism that it is just a principle that has no alternative was also raised because it is hard to make the enactment pass before the April 15 general election.
Minor parties which cannot recline on a revised election law
Other minor political parties were taking various stands on this issue. The People’s Party (국민의당), which had 38 seats in the last election, decided not to run the candidates in the district constituencies and is appealing to vote for not satellite party but them. In an unprecedented case, the Open Democratic Party (열린민주당), which put up proportional representation candidates who were recommended by citizens, is established and getting a recommendation.
The introduction of the semi mixed-proportional representation system was an attempt to relax the number of seat centralization phenomenon within each major party. However, as a result of the creation of satellite parties, even 35 parties registered their name to the proportional representation ballot paper before the candidate registration closing date, March 27. About the controversy, Kwon Soon-Jung, who is the director of the headquarters in public opinion organization Realmeter, said: “Now the meaning of mixed-member proportional system has faded.”
Despite these confusing situations, politicians should consider how we can reflect citizens’ intentions on the election before the calculation of their seats. In addition, the citizenry including CUK students should express their opinion by exercising the right to vote in the April 15 election for members of the National Assembly.