[Viewpoint]Liberals’ strategy won’t workWhen the Grand National Party chose Lee Myung-bak as its presidential candidate, the United New Democratic Party, the Democratic Party and the Uri Party all responded skeptically. They said Lee won’t be the next president because the voters know he is an unqualified liar.
Those parties predicted Lee won’t be able to stay in the race through the end once the full verification process begins.
Three presidential hopefuls of the Democratic Labor Party, Kwon Yong-gil, Roh Hoe-chan and Sim Sang-jeong, warned in a joint press conference that Lee will face a severe winter. No matter how dire the situation may be, if a blessing can’t be offered, one should refrain from wishing another person ill on their happy day. Such cruelty was not seen even between the ruling and opposition parties during the military regime.
Rhyu Si-min, who generally has a reputation of using impolite, frank language among fellow lawmakers, criticized his colleagues’ reaction. He said, “We are being too mean and stingy. Why can’t we offer good wishes?”
Rhyu said he was truly delighted to see Park Geun-hye gracefully accept her defeat. It is ironic that the “impolite” politician is acting most politely.
Other politicians are behaving so improperly because of the anticipation of the fatal blow. They remember sweet moment 10 years ago, and once again five years ago, when the Grand National Party’s Lee Hoi-chang collapsed because of suspicions surrounding the military service of his son. They think they might be able to sink Lee, who seems to have more than a few ethical flaws, once again in the next presidential election.
Or so they want to believe.
The memory of that fatal blow is nothing but a memory. If they hold on to the past, they will commit the folly of failing to see the present. An election of any kind sends a message with its result, and the outcome of the Grand National Party primary is no exception. Lee, who lost amongst party delegates and members, won the primary thanks to the opinion poll.
He lost to Park Geun-hye in the so-called Eastern Belt, the traditional GNP strongholds of Yeongnam and Gangwon.
However, he won in the Seoul and Honam regions, where the ruling party is dominant, giving him his victory. Despite allegations over the land in Dogok-dong, BBK and his false testimony, Lee won.
Why was he chosen? Did the Honam voters and the progressives choose a candidate who is easier to deal with? Are the citizens tolerating a corrupt candidate because of his ability? That is stretching the point.
The voters are saying, “You might have made mistakes in the past, but we will give you a chance if you can do what we desperately need.” The message is that if Lee can boost the economy, resolve the youth unemployment problem by creating jobs and help Korea leap from the current situation of being stuck between China and Japan, the public will not strictly apply the ethical yardstick. If the ruling party doesn’t see the citizens’ message, they are bound to lose.
The ruling party politicians have to hope for another climax. They want to reverse the tide by coming up with a single candidate in the last minute. In 1997, Kim Dae-jung united with Kim Jong-pil; in 2002, Roh Moo-hyun won the support of Chung Mong-joon. They hope a dramatic collaboration will once again turn the table.
However, they are mistaken. Korean citizens are good learners, and if they resort to last-minute collaborations, they are admitting they cannot fairly win the election.
They’d better forget about the one fatal blow, whether it is a scandal or a drama. I am not saying we do not need to verify the qualifications of presidential candidates. However, that is one of many strategies. Democratization and reform alone will not cut it anymore. The citizens already understand their importance. Now they want a blueprint for the future.
The themes of the 1997 election were the first horizontal regime change and completion of democratization, while the spirit of the 2002 election was the end of antiquated politics and changes.
Now we are living in 2007. The paradigm of the election has changed, and the spirit of the times is not the same. The ruling party needs to offer the solutions to the citizens in exchange for votes. To convince the voters, they should present more than pathetic anti-Grand National Party slogans.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo