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(Yonhap Editorial) Voting important to determining S. Korea's future
SEOUL, Dec. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Koreans will head to polling stations Wednesday to elect a new president who will chart the country's future. Voters are well advised to select a candidate who they think can lead the nation to prosperity and safeguard national security. They will decide whether the ruling Saenuri Party will grab another five years of administrative power along with its current majority in the National Assembly, giving it an absolute mandate from the people. Alternatively, voters could opt for a change in government by choosing the main opposition Democratic United Party, favoring a political structure with checks and balances.

   The presidential race between ruling party candidate Park Geun-hye and her rival Moon Jae-in from the opposition bloc is characterized as a proxy war waged by the country's conservative and liberal forces. The nation will decide whether to elect its first female leader or the first unified opposition candidate since 2002. The race has also given South Koreans living abroad a chance to cast their ballots in a presidential election for the first time.

   Then there is the seamy side of the race. It took too much time for voters to know which candidates would go all the way, while voters were given fewer opportunities to size up candidates in terms of their campaign pledges. The entrance and withdrawal of Ahn Cheol-soo, who initially ran as an independent presidential candidate but pulled out of the race last month, has made voters uncertain about the election. Voters only saw three presidential debates, two of which were heavily swayed by a third party contender, Lee Jung-hee, who dropped her bid to obviously support Moon.

   It was also disappointing to see the two blocs engage in mudslinging as their campaigns entered the final phase, with earnest debates on policy getting lost in between. We were worried about the negative tactics that run afoul of many voters' longing for a new breed of politics. The recurrence of such a backward form of politics is feared to have disillusioned many people, who had thrown their weight behind the creation of a new way envisioned by Ahn, a former university professor and software mogul.

   No matter which camp wins the election, we hope voters will take part in voting, an inviolable exercise of sovereignty, to help give rise to a strong president. The next president will properly carry out his or her state affairs with the backing of voters. We advise voters not to give up their right to vote. The renunciation of one's suffrage is tantamount to letting others decide one's future.

  (END)
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