[EDITORIALS]Mr. Lee must keep his vow

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[EDITORIALS]Mr. Lee must keep his vow

The pledge by the main opposition leader, Lee Hoi-chang, that he will "separate the office of president from the leadership of the party if elected president" is the answer to the demands of these times. The concentration of executive power with the person who is also the leader of the ruling party has hindered the nation's political reform and development. By declaring that he will "eliminate the damage from an imperial-style presidency," Mr. Lee is vowing to rise to the demands of the times. He went a step further, saying he will "delegate party leadership" once the nomination procedures are set to ensure fairness in party nominations.

However, Mr. Lee's pledge comes across as halfhearted because he rejected the Grand National Party's in-house calls to overhaul the "imperial-style party presidency." The reformists or the nonmainstreamers within the ruling party say that an almighty party boss is another of the dark legacies of the Old Guard and faction-dominated party politics, just as the imperial-style presidency is. Mr. Lee refused to answer to their demands, citing that unlike the ruling party, the opposition has a better chance of winning if the party's nominee serves as the party leader. Judging from his words, Mr. Lee obviously plans to delegate party leadership temporarily during the party convention, and if picked as party nominee, he will reassume the party presidency. Thus, even his pledge to separate the presidency from party leadership amounts to a campaign pledge that invariably will be subject to verification if and when Mr. Lee is elected president.

Mr. Lee's statement on just how long he intends to remain in the party presidency underlies the difficulties facing a steward steering an opposition party in the election year and concerns over the course of his election campaign. His aides and others close to him say Mr. Lee has "put taking the Blue House over democratization of the party." But the impression we are getting is that he is laboring to maintain his status as a formidable presidential hopeful and shying away from revamping his party. To avoid such criticism, he should be more specific in how he will ensure fairness in the party's nomination process.

Mr. Lee's comment that he is disappointed with President Kim Dae-jung's grasp of corruption-ridden reality, "which has evolved because those in power privatized government agencies to their purposes," is an appropriate criticism as an opposition leader. He has recommended naming an independent counsel for each of the individual corruption cases. But his urging comes at an awkward moment, just a day after his party welcomed the naming of Lee Myung-jae as the new prosecutor-general.

During his New Year's news conference, Mr. Lee promised, "I will make sure that the economy is not afflicted by premature heating and money-tainting of elections." Mr. Lee needs to come up with a framework that will defuse worries and assure the public that the elections will not be tainted with money to woo votes.

Mr. Lee's position demands that he put forth options to the confused state affairs that the administration is facing. He should not rest assured in windfall political gains from the mistakes of the administration. He should not hesitate to work with the ruling party in a bipartisan manner to improve the national economy. He has said, "I am willing to meet with President Kim anytime if necessary in order to reform government and politics."

By rising to these challenges, Mr. Lee will be able to consolidate a path toward taking the Blue House.
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