[FORUM]Content to be in second placeThe Grand National Party is a truly mysterious political party. Having experienced failure many times, it is repeating the same mistakes. I am impressed at its insensitivity. Even an average person learns a lesson and reflects on himself after making a mistake. It is very strange for a political party that has failed to hold the reigns of government twice not to realize its faults.
Look at the faces of the Grand National Party nominees for the October 26 by-election. We cannot find any source of inspiration from the candidates. An election is a perfect opportunity for a party to propose its vision and message to the voters. However, what the Grand National Party did was merely patronize those currying favors with influential party insiders by handing out the nominations. Repeating the blunder again, how can the party ask the voters to support them? The Grand National Party could repeat the history of the last eight years, winning minor elections like the by-elections or re-elections, but being defeated in major elections like the legislative elections or the presidential election.
You might retort by saying that the Uri Party candidates are not so different. That’s true, of course. However, there will be no future for the opposition party if it just tugs on the heels of the ruling party. The ruling party is in power and has nearly a majority of seats in the National Assembly. It might have to pay back its sponsors and has too much to lose from risky ventures. However, the opposition party is different. It has neither the power nor the proper means to promote its policy. Unless it impresses the citizens with its vision and hope, it can never recapture its power.
Well, the Grand National Party might mistakenly believe that it is virtually a ruling party. It is an opposition party in the National Assembly, but it might face few problems in the provinces, as its members are serving as majors, governors, and county and district chiefs. As long as it enjoys the present circumstances, there is no reason for it to pursue reform or seek changes because the status quo serves it just right. It has become complacent.
This chronic ailment of the Grand National Party has a long history. That’s why it has failed to shed its image of a legacy of the Democratic Justice Party even though few politicians from the Fifth Republic remain in it. The members might have changed, but the culture and constitution of the party haven’t changed drastically.
In early 2002, the year of the last presidential election, Lawmaker Park Geun-hye brought up a party reform proposal, which party Chairman Lee Hoi-chang did not initially accept. Ms. Park left the party, and Mr. Lee was pressured by the public into reluctantly adopting the reform plan. After Roh Moo-hyun became wildly popular during the presidential candidate primary of the Millennium Democratic Party, Mr. Lee fell to his knees in front of the citizens and pledged to make changes on the day he was nominated as the Grand National Party’s presidential candidate. However, when the Grand National Party won a local election in June and a by-election in August, Mr. Lee and the Grand National Party naively thought that they could win the presidential election if they maintained the status quo, and were finally defeated by the last-minute collaboration between Mr. Roh and Chung Mong-joon of National Alliance 21.
Similar things happened before the legislative elections in 2004. Given the task of saving the party from the shock of the presidential election defeat, party Chairman Choe Byung-yul initially stressed his pledge for party reform over and over again. However, when President Roh made a series of verbal blunders and policy mistakes, Mr. Choi abandoned the cause of party reform and made an unreasonable move of pursuing the president’s impeachment. The result was defeat in the National Assembly elections. Even after these failures, the Grand National Party has not changed. The party is barely holding out, banking on the gentle image of, femininity and rationality of its current chairwoman, Park Geun-hye, and benefiting from the chaos within the ruling party, but a complete reform of the party is still a distant dream.
At this juncture, the Grand National Party wants to learn from Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Cho Gab-je, a conservative journalist and critic, had advised Ms. Park to learn from Mr. Koizumi’s victory. It is not just Mr. Roh who we worry will learn the wrong lesson from Mr. Koizumi’s landslide election victory. The Grand National Party could be also ruined if it learns the wrong lesson from Mr. Koizumi.
The voters will scorn the Grand National Party if it attempts to seize power through political shows, gambling or tricks, without changing its culture and constitution. Mr. Koizumi’s victory owes to the strategy of simplifying the election front into one focused on the privatization of the Japanese post office. However, at the same time, his victory was possible because the Japanese voters recognized Mr. Koizumi as a politician who can pursue reforms within the boundaries of conservatism. Unless you are resolute enough to give up all you have and desperately do your best for the citizens, the reins of the government will not fall into your hands. If the Grand National Party is complacent with benefiting from the mistakes of the ruling party and the voters’ antagonism against the government, it will never break through its 40-percent level of support, and fail once again.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo