[VIEWPOINT]Uri and Roh must walk right path

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[VIEWPOINT]Uri and Roh must walk right path

The defeat of the Uri Party at the legislative by-elections on October 26 was another big shock, following the party’s complete defeat at other legislative by-elections held on April 30. In the end, Uri Party lawmakers criticized President Roh Moo-hyun directly and the situation resulted in a mass retirement of the Uri Party leadership.
The conflict within the governing party is due to “concern over the party’s political future.” It shows that the forces in power currently have lost their confidence in the upcoming regional elections, scheduled for May of next year, and the presidential election of December 2007.
Voters not only cast their ballots based on their evaluation of the past but also on their hopes for the future. Judging from the results of the two rounds of elections that took place this year, the people are sending a warning to the president and the Uri Party that they do not pin much hope on them for the future.
Why are the majority of the people disappointed at the government and the governing party at this point?
First, the Uri Party has structural limitations. Although the party became a majority party by gaining 152 seats in the 17th general elections in April of last year, it was not because the people agreed with the political platform and policies of the Uri Party. It was a result of the people’s rebellion against the impeachment of President Roh by the opposition parties. In other words, the basis of the people’s support for the Uri Party that was shown in the 17th National Assembly elections was temporary and unstable.
In addition, the Uri Party was established centering on President Roh, but the party’s identity is weak because it is a collective body of various forces mixed together. On top of that, Mr. Roh failed to establish a solid central power group within the party due to the breakup of his support group, which was formed during the presidential election, when the party split with the Millennium Democratic Party at the end of 2003.
People with comparatively little political experience were placed in key positions and they were unable to guide political situations effectively. The absence of a firm central force in the party resulted in a frequent reshuffling of the party leadership, and due to the presence of various forces in the party, the leaders failed to present clear policy guidelines that the whole party could agree with. Also, even established major policies have repeatedly caused internal conflict over how to implement them. Therefore, the party failed either in selecting its agenda items, or in carrying out those that were selected.
The second reason the people are disappointed is because of the way President Roh administers state affairs. This is due to the lack of the president’s leadership and the weakness of the national management system. President Roh himself has proposed, out of the blue, core policies such as the abolition of the National Security Law and the proposal for a political coalition without any process of deep and thorough examination by the Blue House staff, or the Uri Party leaders. Such a method of proposing and pursuing political agendas by the president in person led the Blue House, the government and the party to have to repeatedly rationalize the suggestions later. The repetition of such unreasonable actions was made even worse by the lack of cooperation between the party, the government and the Blue House, due to the president’s principle of dividing the party and the government.
The fact that governing party assemblymen launched attacks on President Roh over the party’s defeat in the Oct. 26 by-elections reflects the change in Korean politics since Mr. Roh came into power. First of all, the low support rating of the president has provided a cue for criticizing the president. In addition, the president’s non-intervention in the nomination of legislative election candidates, the absence of political funds provided by the president and Mr. Roh’s refusal to control politicians through the National Intelligence Service or the prosecution has made it possible for Uri lawmakers to criticize the president without any fear.
So, how can President Roh and the Uri Party overcome this political crisis? The meeting among the leaders of the Uri Party, the government and the Blue House last weekend showed that Mr. Roh and the party do not yet have an effective means to regain the sympathy of the people. The people’s support cannot be brought back through political pursuits that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives, such as bringing presidential hopefuls back to the party, amending the constitution or trying to overcome regionally based politics. Both local elections, which are seven months away, and economic indices, which show partial improvement, demand that the president and party walk the right path to restore the confidence of the public through the gradual solution of economic and social problems that the people face, rather than hurried prescriptions and impatient counteractions.

* The writer is a professor of sociology at Jeonju University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Kang-ro
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