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Open Party soars: What next?

Apr 15,2004
Our Open Party is suddenly in the driver’s seat. Holding only 49 seats in the outgoing National Assembly, it gained enough seats yesterday to establish itself as the majority party in the National Assembly.
Now what?
If, as seems likely, the Constitutional Court overturns the impeachment of President Roh on the grounds that his offenses did not reach the level required to oust a leader, Mr. Roh and his admirers in Our Open Party will dominate the pace and direction of reform efforts.
Looked at from any angle, the election results are a massive vindication of Mr. Roh, who only six weeks ago had approval ratings of below 40 percent.
“Because the National Assembly has lost some of its checks and balances functions, it is possible that we will see a sudden rush to finish reforms that had not been finished in the past 10 years of democracy,” said Song Ho-geun, a sociologist at Seoul National University.
But it is unclear just what form those reforms will take. Our Open Party was vague about the specifics of its reform commitments during the campaign, treating the word more as a mantra to set it apart from what it called the corruption-ridden politics of the past.
One “reform” that resonated with voters was the call for a “more equal” relationship with the United States. But the party has said nothing about just what a more equal relationship would entail or how it would pursue it.
In an interview yesterday evening, Chung Dong-young, the chairman of Our Open Party, called the outcome a clear vote of confidence in the president and the party he is expected to join soon.
“The people have stood up for democracy. They have protected the president. This is not just an election, it’s history. The remnants of 44 years of old politics have left the stage. It’s the end of corrupt politics,” Mr. Chung said.
There may also have been some relief in Mr. Chung’s mix of emotions. After he drew fire for suggesting that elderly voters should stay home and rest, he gave up his job as the party’s campaign manager and his position on the list of his party’s candidates for proportional representation seats. So although he will not be in the new National Assembly, he can bask in his ultimately successful leadership role as he, presumably, begins to plan to get back in.


by Brian Lee


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