[Viewpoint]Now, the road gets roughThe presidential transition committee is overflowing with hope and anticipation. We saw the same thing five years ago, too. The people close to President Roh Moo-hyun were exhilarated with the dream of managing the state administration for five years. They read “The Keys to a Successful Presidency” together.
Five years later, what does their report card look like? Aside from the evaluations they’ve received from each other, the reviews have certainly not been good. They keep telling themselves, “Someday, the people will recognize what we have accomplished.”
The aides to President-elect Lee Myung-bak have massed at the starting line. They are asking themselves, “What can we do to get a good evaluation five years from now?”
As a reporter who has been observing and writing about the Roh administration for five years, I cannot give a straightforward solution. However, I have quite a bit of advice on how not to fail. One lessons is that the actual turnout is always less than the actual percentage of support.
Let’s do some math.
President-elect Lee Myung-bak won 48.7 percent of the votes. The presidential election turnout was 63 percent.
If we take every voter into account, Lee earned 30.7 percent of all voters, having won 48.7 percent of the 63 percent who voted. Here, we are assuming that all the voters who did not cast their ballots did not support Lee. If that were true, then 69.3 percent of the citizens of Korea over age 19 do not favor Lee. The actual number is smaller, though, since there must be Lee supporters who did not vote.
Anyhow, we cannot ignore the significance of the percentage. These are the people who are always ready to oppose the choices and decisions that President-elect Lee makes from now on.
Of course, politics is not mathematics. Early on in his administration, President Roh’s approval rating skyrocketed to 75 percent. The important message here is that Lee must not fall into temptations because of his high rating. A president is not in a position to make decisions for his supporters. There are countless examples in history which show a president should not and cannot work only for his supporters.
President Roh was elected amid the anti-American sentiment ignited by the tragic deaths of two girls, Hyo-sun and Mi-seon.
However, he had to send troops to Iraq in his first year in the Blue House in consideration for Korea’s alliance with the United States. Last year, Roh concluded a free trade agreement with the United States despite opposition from his supporters. As president, the interests of the country must come before the party or the supporters. A president has to put up with the pain of losing his supporters.
You must have already guessed my point. From the moment the Lee administration is inaugurated, Lee’s aides will need to steer the national administration beyond the 48.7 percent level of support, or more precisely 30.7 percent.
The road as a president is far wider and rougher than the road as a presidential candidate. Even the people who didn’t support Lee responded to his campaign catchline of “pragmatism,” because they hope he won’t take sides only with people who share his ideology or political tendencies. Lee should present the future, not the past.
On Dec. 4, President Roh had an interview with CNN. A correspondent pointed at the Hope Piggybanks in his office and said, “I think these must have brought consolation for you.” President Roh said, “I have put them here to keep myself alert. They do encourage me, but they are actually quite a burden.”
The Hope Piggybank is a symbol of the Roh Moo-hyun boom during the 2002 presidential campaign, and President Roh has called it a burden.
A Blue House secretary has said that he did not realize until President Roh came into office that Roh’s ways as a politician and his ways as a president are different.
As a reference, 34.6 percent of the voters supported Roh in 2002, who won 48.6 percent of the votes in an election with 70.8 percent turnout.
*The writer is the deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Seung-hee