[VIEWPOINT]Ruling Party Stands at a Fork in Road

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[VIEWPOINT]Ruling Party Stands at a Fork in Road

The Millennium Democratic Party has been searching for ways to stand on its own since President Kim Dae-jung's resignation from the presidency of the party.

Kim's resignation has caused the "Reformation of the Millennium Democratic Party From the Bottom Up," a movement that is gradually gaining power within the party. Although party members agree on the principle of the reformation, there are different opinions about what the changes might mean. Though the party has presented various ideas, many of them logical, most of those ideas have problems

The reformation will culminate in a selection of a presidential candidate, preferably through a general meeting of representatives of cities and provinces, as in the United States' style of primary elections. But the task cannot be done properly unless the factions within the ruling party can succeed in finding a formula to satisfy their unique and individual interests.

So the Millennium Democratic Party should decide what is its No. 1 task. Is it re-establishing a party identity or winning the upcoming presidential election? After making the party's No. 1 task clear, then a solid strategy for the reformation of the party can be addressed. That is the best way to kill two birds with one stone.

Because the ruling party has lost its popularity and because President Kim has resigned from the party presidency, it is time for the Millennium Democratic Party to decide between the two tasks. When that decision has been made, the ruling party can select a presidential candidate suitable to the task and can try to reorganize current political sectors.

Re-establishment of a party identity is connected to the idea that the ruling party is the only political party that has maintained the spirit of reform and progressiveness in Korean political party history.

The ruling party can choose this principle only when the party has firmly determined that the Millennium Democrats will swallow a bitter defeat in next year's presidential election, while trying to establish the reformation of the party from the bottom.

If the ruling party chooses this as its top priority, the party can avoid collapsing and thus losing its identity after being defeated in the presidential election. And there is a strong possibility for the Millennium Democratic Party to win in the following presidential election.

However, if the party chooses to win the presidential election and focus only on arranging politicians to win, its defeat in the election would result in dissolution of the party.

Some say that while acquiring backing from the party's traditional supporting classes after establishing party identity, the party might not find it impossible to win in the presidential election. If this is decided as the top priority, the presidential candidate of the ruling party is expected to be selected among party advisers Kim Keun-tae, Noh Mu-hyun, Chung Dong-young and Hahn Hwa-kap. All are choices for a mid- and long-term strategy to make a promising future for the party.

If the party chooses winning the presidential election as its No. 1 priority, it will sacrifice its future as a viable political force. Advocates of this priority say that if the Millennium Democratic Party does not try to win the election, the party will lose its cohesion. On top of that, the party has already experienced enough frustration as a minority regime.

The advocates also insist that handing over the political power to the opposing Grand National Party will only bring harsh criticism to the ruling party's reform policies. Therefore, in order to avoid that kind of situation, the ruling party must succeed in gaining power again.

But if the party wants only to win the election, the Millennium Democrats may give up their platforms and cooperate with former President Kim Young-sam and Kim Jong-pil of the United Liberal Democrats. They may even have to criticize President Kim to gain popularity. If the party follows this path, its presidential candidate will be either Rhee In-je, Kim Joong kwon or a third figure, from Gyeongsang province.

The Millennium Democrats must choose one of those two options soon.


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The writer is the political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo

by Kim Du-woo

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