&#91OUTLOOK&#93GNP in need of a major retooling

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&#91OUTLOOK&#93GNP in need of a major retooling

Choe Byung-yul was voted the new leader of the Grand National Party last Thursday in a primary election in which 230,000 voters cast ballots. The majority party in the National Assembly with 153 seats, the Grand National Party’s election should have been the subject of public interest. Hence, it should come as a disappointment and source of regret for the party that the election ended up as an in-house event.
The biggest reason for the lack of public interest in the election was the lack of vision and hope that the Grand National Party has produced as the number one party. The party seems yet to realize that it no longer is the minority party, that it now has responsibilities as the party with the majority of seats. The Grand National legislators seem more interested in spoiling the tenure of the Roh Moo-hyun government than in anything else. The viciousness of their criticism of the government makes it seem that they do not realize they are the majority.
This is not to say that the opposition lawmakers should not be checking the government. It is saying that should they feel the government is in the wrong, they should lead it in what they deem the right direction, guiding it with wisdom and experience through legislation. They should not criticize the government for the sake of criticism but hold it in check by providing alternatives for better governance, to lead policymaking and legislation for the sake of public stability. Such is the behavior that would gain the party the trust of the people and establish its position as the leading party. A ray of hope seeps in with Mr. Choe’s statement that his partys fight “will be for the welfare of the people, cooperating on what requires a joining of forces and fighting what should be fought.”
Following its defeat in the presidential election, the Grand National Party should have been reborn through bold internal reforms and reorganization. Yet the party did nothing of the sort, and the factions urging reforms within the party were ignored. Instead of providing alternatives to the misgovernment by the government and the ruling party, it has resorted to reactionary ideological attacks, indolently seeking gains from the government’s losses. The Grand National Party has yet to learn the lesson that no voter in this world would trust the future to an opposition party that shows no signs of self-reform and self-renovation after losing an election.
As a principle, it is the opposition party that should start with internal reforms and restructuring before the government party. In our case, however, it is the Grand National Party that has lagged behind. The party must rid itself of old customs and anachronistic thinking and rise to meet the demands of the future if it wants to take the helm of state affairs. Britain’s Labor Party came into power only after Tony Blair took over as leader and implemented overall reforms, rejuvenating the party and giving it new energy.
Another thing that the Grand National Party must pay attention to in addition to internal reforms is the reconstruction of its ideology. The party claims to pursue “progressive conservatism” or “rational conservatism” but it must humbly accept the criticism that it has yet to free itself from the sphere of reactionism. It is time the party reestablished its line and ideology.
Perhaps in an opposite case ideology-wise, U.S. President Bill Clinton was an example of winning an election by revising his political line. Nominated as the Democratic candidate, Bill Clinton accepted a considerable number of the conservative policies and shifted his party’s line from the left more to the center. This worked well, and Mr. Clinton became president, ending 12 years of Republican occupancy of the White House, eight years of Ronald Reagan and four years of Bush the elder.
When a candidate or party leans too much to the extreme, it might draw enthusiastic support from certain sectors of society. However, it might also alienate itself from the majority of voters. It is time the Grand National Party found its center.
The first thing Mr. Choe should do as the new leader of the Grand National Party is accept the reformists who have been urging changes within the party. Without listening to their advice, the Grand Nationals in their advocacy of a “strong opposition party” could end up looking like nothing more than party-poopers.

* The writer is a professor of political science at Kyungnam University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Sim Ji-Yeon
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