Democracy and rulesSince a Seoul district court has ruled that its revision of the party constitution was invalid, the Uri Party might not be able to hold its convention next month. The revision ruled invalid concerned the party system, basing its membership more on merit than rank-and-file. A merit-based membership would largely benefit the current party leaders who want to form a new party. Party members who filed the court petition are mostly associated with President Roh Moo-hyun and want to keep the party’s status quo.
The problem lay in the procedures. The court found that when revising the party constitution, the party leadership had illegitimately handed over the right to amend the party constitution to a new leadership committee consisting of those who want to form a new party. Party regulations stipulate that the party constitution should be amended by a two-thirds majority vote of the central committee. The Uri Party has announced that it will conclude the revision, this time in the central committee next Monday, but it is too early to predict smooth passage.
It is astounding how party leaders could have thought they could get away with a plan that they should have known was folly had they read their party constitution even once or asked an expert. What were all the party lawyers doing on that fateful day? Even with such public fallout, no one is willing to own up to a mistake.
Kim Geun-tae, the party’s chairman, was uncomfortable. He said, “While democracy within the party is important, sometimes we must choose to respect and protect certain areas in order to guarantee the freedom of politics.” It’s up to the Uri Party members whether they want to go with the old or change to the new. However, as an established political party protected by the laws of this country, Uri should uphold its own constitution. If the lawmakers of our country can’t respect the regulations of their own party, who in this country will uphold the law? If a political party that can’t guarantee internal procedural democracy is to lead this country, how will Korea remain a democracy?
In a way, procedural democracy is more important than substantive democracy. Totalitarianism begins when due process is ignored in order to pursue a policy that is overly “legitimized” by the authorities. Following procedures is essential for the establishment of communications and political compromise. If we don’t respect due process, who’s to stop all of us from running out into the street whenever we don’t like what the majority says?