[FOUNTAIN]Lame Ducks and Real Power

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[FOUNTAIN]Lame Ducks and Real Power

The term "lame duck" is said to have come into use during the American Civil War, referring to presidents who failed to win a second term and "waddled like ducks," unable to hold a consistent line in policy administration during the remainder of their term. The incumbent president's term used to run through March 4 following the November election, leaving defeated presidents with nearly a four-month period of uncertainty. But that changed in 1933 when the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution moved the presidential inauguration to Jan. 20.

In nations where the source of power is the system as opposed to the person, the "lame duck" phenomenon is not a frequent occurrence. The first George Bush ordered an air raid on Iraq in early 1993 with less than 48 hours remaining in his term. Now when the story is retold, politicians in this part of the world are reminded of the power of the incumbent. More recently, a member of the ruling party said something reflecting the political reality here, "No opposition candidate running for the presidency has won with the incumbent president vehemently opposed to him." He continued, "All it takes is for the incumbent to make a couple of calls to the sources of campaign funds and then the candidate is as good as doomed. President Kim Dae-jung himself lost in 1987 (incumbent Chun Doo-hwan) and in 1992 (incumbent Roh Tae-woo)." This comment shows the power the incumbent has on election financing. In 1997, the analysis goes, Mr. Kim did not have the incumbent, Kim Young-sam, making a concerted effort to assure he lost. The assemblyman continued, "Lee Hoi-chang should remember that." Whether from the opposition or from the ruling party, a person considering a run for the presidency would do well to be respectful of the incumbent, he seems to imply.

Presidential hopefuls of MDP have been extremely obedient toward President Kim; even lame duck talk is clearly forbidden. Chairman Kim Joong-kwon was cautious enough to protect his own position when he mentioned an "early nomination of a candidate" by saying, "A lame duck does not come from within. The power of a president is enormous until the very end of his term. That power does not diminish just because there is another candidate."

It is a shame that the atmosphere within MDP is such that it is considered disrespectful to even speak the words "lame duck" or talk about the timing for naming a candidate. Is this because power springs not from the system but from the person? The presidential term is fixed, so why should politicians not discuss the timing of naming a next candidate. The ruling party chairman has been busy cleaning up his statement, saying it was "misreported." There must be restrictions on the expression of ideas within the ruling party.



by Noh Jae-hyun

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