[Viewpoint]Low hopes for a ‘beautiful primary’The phrase “God saw that it was good,” appears several times in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Nowadays, we hear people wishing for something similar to take place in Korean politics. The voices of those who wish for a party primary that allows the people to say, “It is good” have suddenly grown louder.
The stronger the will to change the government and the higher the loyalty to the Grand National Party, the stronger people express their hope for a “beautiful primary.”
It is because candidates from the Grand National Party rank first, second and third in the public opinion polls of potential presidential candidates. This means that the party can succeed in taking power if all of its candidates, Lee Myung-bak, Park Geun-hye and Sohn Hak-kyu, participate in the party primary without hurting each other, staging negative campaigns or throwing around malicious propaganda.
However, the chance of such a primary election taking place is close to zero. This is because politics is a world where naked desires collide against each other. People who do not have a strong will to power don’t even think of putting their foot into politics. It is merely political rhetoric, to say, as Sohn Hak-kyu does, “I will show all my assets and abilities to the people and accept their evaluation of my achievements, and if there is anything for which I should beg for their pardon, I will do that without hesitation.”
They say that a dispute between brothers is much worse than one between strangers.
You can shake hands again with people who are not related to you, but it is hard to make peace with your own brothers again because of the sense of betrayal. Here lies the reason the party primary election can never be a beautiful one. What’s more, the confrontation between Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye in the Grand National Party is not limited to those two people. The forces around them already have a deep emotional divide between them after the first round of the battle, over the verification of Mr. Lee’s weak points.
They are already at the stage where they try to avoid seeing each other at formal gatherings.
The struggle over verification of the qualifications of a presidential candidate is bound to continue to the end. Even if a momentary lull is maintained for a short while due to persuasive efforts from the party leadership and pressure from public opinion, it will end only after it goes as far as it can. An election is a process through which candidates persuade voters that they are better than their rivals in policy matters, ability and ethics.
Comparative superiority can be proven by highlighting one’s own merits, but it can also be demonstrated by revealing the opponent’s weaknesses. Politicians are not gentle enough to overlook their rivals’ weaknesses if they know about them. It is the same in other countries. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are also in the middle of mudslinging.
A “great primary election” in which the losers willingly submit to the outcome and take on the roles of chairperson or director of campaign headquarters is also just wishful thinking. The history of past primaries for presidential elections proves this. In a primary election held in the 1970s, Kim Young-sam, who stood for the primary as a candidate representing younger politicians in their 40s, showed beautiful political etiquette by raising the hand of the winner, Kim Dae-jung, but he was said to have been very passive in giving support to the election campaign, according to followers of former President Kim Dae-jung.
Wasn’t it because Mr. Kim disliked his internal competitor more than his external political enemies? The 1997 Grand National Party primary election and 2002 Democratic Party primary elections also suffered from serious aftereffects.
Proposals such as “Let’s institutionalize the candidate vetting process,” or “Let the party vet the candidates” sound okay but are unrealistic. Not only do they close channels that could help vet the candidates, but they also make it difficult to trust such verifications as a whole. How about permitting the candidates to exchange offensive and defensive battles of verification against each other without any regulations? In case an attack is of a personal nature, the side that launched the offensive must provide evidence. If the accusations turn out to be false, the concerned candidate should be held responsible for the attack.
There doesn’t seem to be any way to hold a primary election like a festival and then win the final election easily.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo