[Outlook]The GNP must fear its own fears

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[Outlook]The GNP must fear its own fears

The members of the Grand National Party have one thing in common. They are all afraid of something: that they might be defeated again at the last minute in the presidential election campaign. The party lost the election that way two times before, so it is only natural that they are afraid.
For the Grand National Party, the 1997 presidential election was a nightmare. It seemed a sure bet that Lee Hoi-chang, the Grand National Party’s candidate, would easily defeat Kim Dae-jung, the Democratic Party’s candidate.
It seemed impossible for Lee to lose, even if he tried. Kim was an old and washed-out candidate who had lost in the presidential election three times before.
In the previous election in 1992, Kim was crushed by Kim Young-sam by 1.9 million votes. He then announced that he would retire from politics. But the Grand National Party was defeated by Kim.
The 2002 election was another horrible experience.
Many Grand National Party members were certain they would win this time and if they did not, they would quit their political career. They were determined. It seemed like they would win with ease until the middle of the campaign period. Their rival, Roh Moo-hyun, was weak. He did not have a firm political base or strong supporters.
Even inside the Democratic Party that had nominated him, many members maintained that Roh should be replaced. But the Grand National Party kneeled down again at the last minute.
The ruling party members welcomed the comeback victories, calling them dramas that were a complete surprise.
The Grand National Party has been an opposition party for 10 years.
Its members have deeply felt the political insecurity. Going through a horrible experience twice before, they have developed a disease, a fear of drama.
They are constantly afraid something might pop up at the last minute and ruin everything. It looks something like a famous scene from a TV series, in which the main character asks his friend, “Am I shaking?” while breathing heavily with a pale face, when he was about to be hanged. GNP members have atychiphobia ― a fear of failure.
The fear of drama has become a matter of the highest priority when the Grand National Party decides something important.
A good example is the party’s recent plan to screen its own presidential hopefuls thoroughly. Apart from its ethics commission, the party created a special body to investigate its presidential hopefuls to determine whether there are any wrongdoings in the past.
It is not unusual for a political party to probe into the problems of the candidates of other parties and attack their weak spots. But it is a first for a political party to decide to investigate its own aspirants.
Both the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye camps think the screening process will decide the winner, so they entrusted their closest and most reliable aides as attackers and defenders in the imminent screening process war.
For now, it is hard to predict how the screening process will affect the future of the Grand National Party.
I think there are two possibilities. If the party checks every aspect of its hopefuls and gets rid of or reduces the factors that could be attacked later by the opposition, the process will be very helpful, even a big hit.
If the process is more interesting than the other parties’ procedure to pick a candidate, the Grand National Party can keep the people’s attention.
The Grand National Party can keep its approval rating high. Then the party will overcome its fear of drama, and succeed in making its own successful drama.
On the other hand, the screening process can be harmful. If the process encourages personal insults, defamations or irresponsible divulgences, it could leave both hopefuls wretched.
If hard feelings turn into hatred and things get worse, there is a possibility the party primary won’t run smoothly. The screening process will cause a self-inflicted wound. Later, people will say the Grand National Party was so afraid that it carved itself up before its rivals could.
If the Grand National Party loses this election, the party will have been without the presidency for 15 years. The party will likely be viewed as a party with little chance to assume power, which exists only for its lawmakers who are elected in areas where they have a firm base of supporters. The very existence of the party will be shaky.
It is up to both of the Grand National presidential hopefuls to make sure the screening process turns out to be a life-saver, not a suicidal mission. Many people are watching.

*The writer is the senior political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo

by Kim Gyo-joon
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