[Viewpoint]GNP must give people a reason to vote for itThe Grand National Party won a landslide victory and the Uri Party suffered a devastating defeat in the local elections held on May 31 of last year. At that time, I wrote a column headlined, “The party’s over for the 386 generation politicians.” The gist of the article was that the local elections heralded the arrival of a new era. It sent a signal that the voters no longer trusted the politics of the 386 generation.
Eleven months have passed since then, and the results of by-elections held on April 25 brought opposite results from the 2006 elections. The Grand National Party, which boasted that it had not lost a single election with the exception of the presidential election, was defeated. For the first time, voters turned their backs to the party. What is even more interesting is that many people who were traditional supporters of the GNP criticized the party, saying they deserved to lose.
The good old days of the Grand National Party are now over.
At a glance, the situation is hard to understand. According to opinion polls, the Grand National Party has an approval rating of about 40 percent, while that of the Uri Party hovers at around 10 percent. The combined approval ratings of Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye, the presidential hopefuls of the Grand National Party, once reached 70 percent. What about the approval ratings of the presidential candidates in the governing camp? I am sorry to say their approval ratings are more or less at the same level. Under this situation, how could the Grand National Party lose in the by-elections?
To solve this mystery, we need to be honest. Let’s gather the courage to ask a few questions. Why do you think the Grand National Party has enjoyed such high approval ratings? What has the Grand National Party done besides attack President Roh Moo-hyun and the Uri Party?
Let’s look a little closer at the problem.
Although unemployed youths have been filling the streets and social polarization has been getting worse by the day, has the party agonized even once about these problems?
Business corporations are crying out that, “Korea is sandwiched between China and Japan.” But did the party present a solution even once? Didn’t the party hesitate to take the necessary action to reform the national and civil servant pension systems because it was worried about losing votes as it watched which direction the wind was blowing? Does it have its own plan to solve the North Korean nuclear problem?
When the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement negotiations were underway, didn’t the party act in an opportunistic way until it was confirmed that the public opinion in support of the trade agreement had grown? Although our children are suffering and our parents must shoulder expensive private education costs under a policy designed to equalize the levels of education, did the party ever present a fundamental alternative? Has it looked for a solution to the reckless management of our public enterprises?
These are but few of the many questions that are too numerous to enumerate. As things get clearer, the more we ask questions. What is clear is that people have never seen the Grand National Party thinking intensely and trying hard to come up with solutions to such problems, upon which rest the fate of the Republic of Korea. That is the reason why people have come to call the GNP the “well-being party,” because it seems to only take care itself.
The approval ratings of the Grand National Party, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye are high, but not because they have accomplished a lot. On the contrary, it is because people tend to support the opposite side due to their disappointment with Roh Moo-hyun and the Uri Party. The deeper the despair of the people over President Roh, the more they sought “hope.” Therefore, they turned to the two Grand National Party candidates, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye.
President Roh has less than 10 months left in his term. The people are now even tired of hating the “lame duck” president. On top of that, President Roh no longer seems to be an object of despair. He pushed through the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement with persistence, and even gave up revising the Constitution when public opinion seemed to be against it. He still says stubborn things once in a while, but it is not so bad anymore.
Voters are now asking, “Why do we have to support the Grand National Party?” But the Grand National Party has failed to give an answer. That is why it lost in the April 25 by-elections.
At this point, what I hope is that the party doesn’t say, “Well, is there any other party or candidate to vote for besides us?”
Such arrogance brought the Grand National Party its devastating defeats at the 1997 and 2002 presidential elections.
The people are saying that the heyday of benefiting from the mistakes of political rivals is over.
There is still a lot of time until the presidential election in December. I hope the Grand National Party and its candidates, Lee and Park, will not forget that voters are fickle and can turn their back on candidates whenever they want, and that is entirely their right.
*The writer is the senior city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Chong-hyuk
More in Columns
A new epicenter of social conflict
Lessons from a president
Tales of Chairman Lee
Chinese way of tackling challenges
Time to step up climate action