[EDITORIALS]Party set to fall over cliff

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[EDITORIALS]Party set to fall over cliff

The schism between supporters and opponents within the Millennium Democratic Party for its presidential candidate, Roh Moo-hyun, seems to have crossed the point of no return. Now Kim Young-bae, the leader of the panel exploring the creation of a new party, has blamed Mr. Roh for the rupture.

Mr. Roh has curtly turned down the commission's demand for a rerun of the party primaries, claiming it was "impossible." The party is in internal strife over Roh's candidacy with fewer than 100 days left before the election. Such is the chronically unpredictable state of our politics. The aimless drifting of politicians has disillusioned the public.

Talk of creating a new party seems to have been going ever since the party was crushed in the Aug. 8 by-elections. A "clean-slate party," a united party, a reform party, a temporary party, the "opening of doors" are among the options that the supporters of Mr. Roh, the opponents of Mr. Roh and those in between have been advocating. In the end, the two sides seemed bent on separating, which is quite lamentable. What is happening approximates the scenes of "political migration," ugly accusations and vicious partings of the past. The party has come to this point basically because of the opinion that Mr. Roh is not "good enough" to win the presidential race. Positioning has taken the place of principles, an overriding obsession with victory has taken the place of political reform.

The deep schism in the Millennium Demo-cratic Party is due partly to the incompetence of its leadership. Mr. Roh failed to show the leadership needed to control the tension within the party because of the rule that separates the presidential candidacy from the party leadership. His unfiltered words, condescending anti-Americanism and proposal to abolish Seoul National University also did not help to lessen the gap between him and the "anti-Roh" members of the party. Party leader Hahn Hwa-kap and the other traditional leading members of the MDP also failed to handle the situation aptly in their obsession with succession within the party after President Kim Dae-jung leaves office.

Now, Mr. Roh's supporters, his opponents and those in between must decide. While they have the freedom to choose, they would also do good to remember that the public will hand down the final judgment on their decision.

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