[NOTEBOOK]The candidate-party synergy

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[NOTEBOOK]The candidate-party synergy

According to recent voter polls, Roh Moo-hyun, the presidential candidate of the Millennium Democratic Party, leads Lee Hoi-chang, the presidential candidate of the Grand National Party, by a whisker. The cooperation between Mr. Roh and Chung Mong-jun, who once competed with Mr. Roh for the nomination, seems to have worked positively for Mr. Roh. Mr. Roh's surge is also attributable to support by some television stations, newspapers and Internet bulletin boards.

Still, it is a mystery why the MDP has advanced so far. Just six months ago, the GNP achieved a lopsided victory against the MDP in local elections. Citizens punished the ruling MDP and the Kim Dae-jung government for their corruption and bungling. After the elections, the MDP was hit by the departure of many of its members. Thus, the recent advance of the MDP against the GNP in the presidential race is difficult to understand.

The presidential election, of course, is a competition between candidates, not always a competition between parties. Voters choose candidates based on their pledges. But nobody knows whether the pledges will be realized or not. The parties, thus, are important. How well the parties have handled state affairs will be the most important standard for choosing a candidate.

But the current situation tells us that party policy is not an important factor in this election. Even when we take into consideration the facts that Kim Dae-jung withdrew from the MDP and Mr. Roh is not following in the footsteps of President Kim, the surge by Mr. Roh is still hard to understand.

Mr. Roh, making sophisticated moves, escaped the faults of the MDP. A newspaper ad for Mr. Roh is one such example. The word "MDP" appears in a corner of the ad in small letters. It is almost impossible to find. Mr. Roh further distanced himself from the MDP when it was necessary and exploited his private supporter group "Nosamo." The support of 60,000 Nosamo members was decisive. They consider themselves to be the "Roh Moo-hyun viruses," a reference to their quickly spreading addictive power.

The viruses used piggy banks to gather campaign donations for Mr. Roh, attacked Mr. Lee's pronouncements and engaged in demagoguery for their candidate. Some of this support group's activities would have been ruled illegal by the election authorities if done by organized political parties.

We may well hear voices saying political parties are not necessary in Korean politics. Mr. Roh says that he would totally reform the MDP to make it a "Roh Moo-hyun party."

A nation is not run by a president alone. Sound and reliable politicians should populate the parties. The presidential election is a package political event that revolves around both the candidates and parties.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Hyun-il

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