[FORUM]Politics are stale? Look againThe political world, where vision, value and leadership are major goods, can be called the oldest futures market. Future transactions are calculated by assessing the value of the future today. Politicians put a list of their strong points into the market to sell themselves at expensive prices in the elections that follow.
In the political futures market, leaders offer their visions for the future. People predict the likelihood of their future success by examining their leadership and the capability they display to put things into practice. Therefore, we take interest in political leaders, particularly the big three potential presidential candidates who steadily rank first to third in public opinion polls.
The changes in the attitude of former Prime Minister Goh Kun, who is a player still on the curb, offer a window from which to look at future politics. The turbulent politics of this year and those expected early next year are reflected in his weighing up the right time to enter the political arena.
Mr. Goh’s face has also changed. Exercise has rid it of fat and left his upper eyelids slightly curled up and made “natural” double eyelids, similar to those of President Roh Moo-hyun. A touch of charisma has been added to his face. Following his participation in a meeting for the formation of a new party in the Chungcheong region, he said, “I have been asked by many politicians to intervene in the local elections in May of next year.” He is mulling over the level and method of his intervention.
Among others, Mr. Goh is interested in the possibility of Mr. Roh’s early resignation from his position. Although the president has hinted at such a possibility, Mr. Goh would be the first person to be embarrassed if the talk of Mr. Roh shortening his term suddenly becomes reality. He would urgently need political forces which could represent him in organizing a “post-Roh Moo-hyun” political order, including the timetable for the next presidential election and the issue of constitutional revision.
Mr. Goh was the first prime minister of the “participatory government” and served as acting president during the presidential impeachment. Such concern and interest from him signals that the later half of the Roh administration will be overwhelmed by the dynamics of “next-term politics.”
Former Presidents Roh Tae-woo and Kim Dae-jung, who struggled with the weakness of a four-party system or a joint regime, did not face the lame duck phenomenon as early as President Roh does.
In political circles where the scenario of a shortened presidential term is not unfamiliar, it is quite natural that there should be heated behind-the-scene dialogue aimed at the local elections, parliamentary re-elections and by-elections on Oct. 26. We can also sense the outline of the composition of the next presidential elections. This outline will provide a clue to our forecast for the future, one to three years from now.
Grand National Party Chairwoman Park Geun-hye, who easily handled negotiations with Mr. Roh on his proposal to form a coalition government, has now begun her move to increase power. In mid-September, Ms. Park invited and welcomed to a meeting Representative Kim Moon-soo of her party, a heavy-weight third-term legislator from Bucheon-Sosa, Gyeonggi province, who was not particularly friendly to her. They reportedly exchanged the following conversation.
Ms. Park: “What do you think about running in the elections for the governor of Gyeonggi province?”
Mr. Kim: “I do not take part in politics for a position but if I am in a situation where I have to, I will become a candidate.”
The contest to select the Grand National Party candidate for the position of Gyeonggi governor is supposed to be held in February next year. Ms. Park will have great influence on the contest. She already won the fight over hegemony with opposition forces in her party who have close relationships with the Seoul mayor, Lee Myong-bak. As a result, she won guarantees for her leadership until July next year.
Between Ms. Park and Mr. Kim, they seem to have discussed the issues of the local elections and the next presidential election also.
Mr. Kim gave candid advice to Ms. Park, saying, “Although the Grand National Party is seemingly doing well now, I don’t think it does. If the party does not change its complacent constitution, the Grand National Party can hardly win the next presidential election.”
Did Ms. Park meet only a would-be candidate for Gyeonggi governor or did she also meet a prospective Seoul mayor?
The frequent unofficial contacts of Ms. Park, who has received low ratings on her closeness to party members and her organizing ability will provoke the mayor.
Mr. Lee has the image of the best worker among would-be presidential candidates or of being a “professional worker.” His ability was demonstrated in the success of his Cheonggye Stream Restoration Project. When it comes to competition in areas of image and popularity, he may not need to directly confront Ms. Park. However, when it comes to a fight to secure power within the party, he will inevitably clash with her.
Mr. Lee is naturally good at organizing factions. He has the experience of reversing public opinion in the contest for the party candidate for the Seoul mayoral election, by organizing forces. The contest between the two powerful leaders, Ms. Park and Mr. Lee, will be a grand match fiercer than the coming presidential campaign.
Prospective presidential candidates are preparing for the future with vision, capability and their individual views of the world.
I hope those who are habitually depressed with groundless or exaggerated pessimism will pay heed to the politics of dynamism and the possibilities of next term.
* The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chun Young-gi