[FORUM]Seeing a schism in the Uri Party

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[FORUM]Seeing a schism in the Uri Party

Over the New Year, the political situation will obviously be one of turbulence. The lame-duck status of the Roh Moo-hyun administration, with its two remaining years, will come to the surface. Within the governing party, the movement to distance itself from the president will go into full swing, and President Roh will try to hinder it with his “hidden political cards.” Summit talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il would be one of those cards. In the Grand National Party, it is expected that conflict between supporters and opponents of prospective presidential candidates will heat up.
Common topics of conversation in the political community this year will be a constitutional revision and political reshuffling. The argument for a constitutional revision rests largely into two axes: One is a parliamentary cabinet system or dual executive system, supported by advocates of dispersing power. The other is a four-year reappointment presidential system, with a president and vice president, designed to overcome the problems of a five-year single presidential term. Each argument has its points, but there is little chance of the constitution being amended, because the interests of would-be presidential candidates in the discussion could never come into synch. As long as there are strongly opposing forces, it would not be easy to secure the support of two-thirds of lawmakers and pass the referendum. So why is the issue of a constitutional revision being raised?
It is to justify the candidates’ moves to diverge, converge or form alliances, using the discussion of constitutional revision as leverage.
The motive for a political reshuffle is quite compelling. Until now, there had been no justification or proper avenue for a reshuffle. When it happens, it will begin with the governing Uri Party. Its sign will appear in February, in the party’s national convention. Unification Minister Chung Dong-yong and Health and Welfare Minister Kim Keun-tae will return to the party and come to the front, and a group of enthusiastic reelected lawmakers in their 40s will challenge the party leadership and carefully distance themselves from President Roh, by posing as “critical supporters” of the president. There are not many “fools” who would back the present administration, with its support polled at around 20 percent. This movement is highly likely to pick up speed immediately following the local elections in May 31.
There are four main scenarios for the party’s schism. As criticism against President Roh progresses, pro-Roh forces and anti-Roh forces could split, or lawmakers from the Jeolla provinces could be estranged from the governing party and unite with the Democratic Party. Also, the supporting forces of the abovementioned ministers Kim and Chung, who are counted among the most powerful presidential candidates, and a group seeking a third-party presidential candidate, could split off. Another scenario is the split between practical forces and left-leaning forces. This analysis might seem complicated, but the reality will be a mixture of these scenarios.
The Grand National Party has no reason to rejoice over the divergence of the governing party. It would be a mistake to think that “others’ unhappiness is my happiness.” The governing party shows signs of a schism because it sees it cannot win in the presidential election under its present composition. As such, the party aims to adopt a strategy of “dispersing and gathering again” in which the party disperses for a while and tries its best to make progress toward the presidential election separately, at which point it will reunite. The governing party has the know-how and experienced personnel to maximize the effect of such a strategy. It has consolidated Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil into one political force and made a single candidate out of two: Roh Moo-hyun and Chung Mong-joon.
In the process of the enforced passage of the Private School Act and the proposed budget on Dec. 30, the governing party’s alliance with the Democratic Party, the Democratic Labor Party and the People-Centered Party (a provisional name) suggests some points. These parties represent forces that would not tolerate power being handed over to the Grand National Party. Therefore, the final goal of the governing party’s divergence can be said to be the establishment of an anti-Grand National Party and an anti-conservative front and the formation of a Jeolla-Chungcheong province alliance against the Gyeongsang provinces. In addition, the great change that will start with the governing party can shake the young non-mainstream lawmakers in the Grand National Party on a small scale and in the core forces on a large scale. We can imagine a situation in which those who feel disadvantaged in the competition among Grand National Party chairwoman Park Geun-hye, the mayor of Seoul Lee Myung-bak and Gyeonggi governor Sohn Hak-gyu join hands with a particular force diverged from the governing party.
I wrote an article under the title of “Rather go separate ways” here on Jan. 1 last year. The point of the article was that if it was too hard to be in the same party because of one’s different political tactics, it would be better to split up. But if politicians go their separate ways just to achieve the aims of their political tactics, they will not be able to avoid harsh criticism from the people.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Du-woo
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