[EDITORIALS]Risking it all for nothingPresident Roh Moo-hyun has at last mentioned the possibility of shortening his presidential term, during a dinner for the governing party lawmakers on Tuesday. He said, “If a new political culture is created and a new era begins, I have the will and the determination to close my era even by shortening the term of office or by withdrawing from frontline politics.”
The Uri Party lawmakers who heard him were shocked and the opposition parties are trying to figure out his intentions. Given that the president, who was elected by the people and entrusted with the duty to administer state affairs for five years, insists that he wants to resign from his post, we are dumbfounded at his irresponsibility.
President Roh first disclosed the idea of a coalition with the opposition at a joint meeting of leaders from the Uri Party, government and Blue House on June 24. As the reaction was weak, he started to strengthen the tone of his proposal. He went from proposing a simple coalition with the opposition to saying, “I am willing to transfer presidential power to the cabinet, to a level equal to that of a cabinet system.” Then he said he would consider “handing over power to the opposition” if it were demanded. At last he mentioned shortening his term. Overwhelming public opinion, reflected in various surveys conducted recently to mark the later half of Mr. Roh’s term is that “the president must put priority on economic affairs.” It is a pity that he evades such demands and tries to find a political breakthrough without trying to normalize state affairs.
His attitude of clinging to a coalition is also problematic. The president threatened people who gave him low approval ratings by saying, “I will resign.” He laughed at the opposition that ignored his proposal by saying, “Why do you suspect so much, even though I say I will give you everything?” He intimidated governing party lawmakers who asked him to focus on an economic revival with talk of “bolting” from the party. Mr. Roh said, “Only dialogue and compromise can make democracy ripe.” But he pays no mind to the opinion of the governing and opposition parties or to the people. He only tries to achieve his own ideas.
The “president’s sincerity” that the Blue House and the governing party leaders often mention is also dubious. They say that Mr. Roh is sincere about “dedicating his own power to eradicating regionalism.” And they present electoral district reform as a means to this end. But while the introduction of medium and large electoral districts or a German-style candidate list system may provide a clue to the change in regional support, electoral district reform can’t cure regionalism. Regional sentiment and regionalism must be cured with time and care. It can’t be solved by changing a political system. Yet the president stakes his term on a matter that amounts to nothing more than that. Isn’t it natural that people can’t believe in his sincerity?
If Mr. Roh tries to induce a constitutional revision or a political upheaval by using a coalition as a medium, the situation will worry us. The people are struggling with their livelihood and the outlook for the economy is dim. If the highest leader in state affairs indulges in political games, the future of the nation will be dark. The call for a coalition must stop.
If Mr. Roh insists, he must first present a detailed program so that people can clearly understand his intention. No one can believe in words only.