[Viewpoint]The GNP created its own messWas the presidential candidacy of Lee Hoi-chang, the former chairman of the Grand National Party, really unexpected? Is his candidacy, as some point out, really just an old man’s greed for power and something that doesn’t even deserve consideration? Is he just breaking the rules? I do not think it is a matter that can be so easily defined. After all, the Grand National Party brought this on itself.
The people’s disappointment and anger toward the Roh Moo-hyun administration is huge. Under the dreadful, withering glare of the people, the leading liberal politicians escaped in droves from their sinking boat, dissolving the ruling Uri Party to form a new party. Now they are discussing a merger with the Democratic Party, which they deserted before they formed the Uri Party.
If the Grand National Party had better understood the pain and the wrath of the people, who were the victims of the Roh administration’s misrule, and exerted sincere efforts to solve the problems such as providing people with a vision, Lee Hoi-chang could not have stepped forward to declare a third attempt at the presidency.
The Grand National Party failed to thoroughly analyze the reason why it lost the last two presidential elections; they failed as well to reflect on their mistakes closely enough.
They attributed their defeat to such factors as the cunning tactics of their opponents, citing the coalition between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil, the unified candidacy of Roh Moo-hyun and Chung Mong-joon,and negative campaigning, such as Kim Dae-up’s groundless accusations against candidate Lee Hoi-chang.
They also saw as a cause of defeat their failure to adopt a so-called people’s primary election, in which the people were invited to participate. Moreover, they had a prolonged internal dispute over whether the party should adopt the innovation.
All that is nonsense.
A political party must aim to reflect public opinion before its members decide what to do. That is exactly what they should have done. To ask the public to select their presidential candidate before the election day amounts to forfeiting their role as a properly functioning political party.
The Grand National Party has severely criticized the Roh administration for shaking the nation’s foundation, putting national security at risk and dividing the people.
However, the alternatives presented by the GNP were confusing because they were aimed at entirely different targets from the goals of attack.
When one faction presented a plan to construct a great canal, the rival faction presented a similar infrastructure initiative because the party thought there should be a policy competition as the two rivals fought head-to-head.
The problem, however, is that though such actions may be significant, many people in the party base thought they were not the most urgent problems that needed to be solved to overcome the crises of legitimacy and security and to draw a consensus among citizens.
In the course of the primary election, the rival factions unfolded toxic negative campaigns against each other that were hard to see as competition between fellow party members.
It made people doubt whether a party with such serious wounds would be able to survive the presidential election intact.
The procedure through which they tried to verify the ethical standards of candidates was nothing but sugar-coated personal attacks on political enemies, like a witchhunt during the Inquisition. They did not know that proper verification should be a process that frightens a person to make him good, not one that cripples him into uselessness.
Lee Hoi-chang’s candidacy was induced by the delusion of the GNP’s presidential aspirants, who thought that they could easily win the presidential election by simply defeating rivals within the party ― mistaking the people’s desperate hope for governmental change as overwhelming support for them. Add to that the unoriginal idea of a people’s primary and the subsequent confusion within the party after the primary.
Consolidating the foundation of the nation is a completely different matter from apartment complex construction or restoration of the Cheonggye Stream. Simply declaring that the candidacy of Lee Hoi-chang is not righteous cannot diminish the significance of Lee Hoi-chang’s act.
The GNP leaders should realize how serious the people’s disappointment is.
What does it mean that approximately 20 percent of the voters sided with Lee as soon as he announced his candidacy? What Lee is trying to do is get into the empty hearts of voters who are inclined to support the Grand National Party but have complaints about what’s happening in the party now.
It is not yet clear to ordinary people what really motivated him to run for the presidency or whether he will run the whole distance.
However, it seems clear that Lee’s third attempt for the presidency dealt a painful blow to the Grand National Party and tossed the party a task: The GNP should be overhauled before it’s too late.
*The writer is the op-ed editor of the JoongAng Daily.
by Suh Ji-won