[Viewpoint]Facing failure hand-in-handEnding a decade of liberal rule, the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration won the Blue House this year, but the administration is staggering. No administration has ever recorded such a low approval rating for incompetent governance in the early stages of its term. The Lee administration is rewriting the history of world democracy. It is taking back its promise to revive the economy, a key element in voters’ support for Lee. It is no wonder public anger is building up in other areas, such as democratic and social values.
The most serious problem that the nation faces is that no legislative election is scheduled until nearly the end of the current presidential administration under the current Constitution, and there is no way to reshape the power structure even if the worst mistakes are repeated.
The more incompetent the president and the administration are, the more critical the role of the governing party becomes in linking the people with the administration.
However, the Grand National Party failed to demonstrate its ability to provide alternatives as the president and the administration showed a lack of preparation. The governing party and party politics have been missing in the early stage of the administration.
The absence of the Grand National Party is a key reason behind the national crisis, but ruling officials, including the president, are not aware of the problem. Such a lack of awareness is another serious matter.
Why is the role of the majority governing party more important under the Lee administration?
First, it’s because of the president’s characteristics. Lee values achievements ? a non-democratic principle of downplaying the significance of party politics.
It is understandable that the CEO-turned-president’s achievements early in his term are poor. In a democracy, the role of the legislature and political parties, which connect the people and the administration, is critical; sometimes, it is the most important factor.
However, Lee focused more on giving orders rather than engaging in dialogue. He valued top-down communication more than the people’s intentions. Therefore, not only the public, but also the governing party have been neglected, and Lee failed to accomplish any of his goals. That is why the Grand National Party’s role and the restoration of party politics are extremely important.
Second, it’s because the formation of the National Assembly. The 18th National Assembly does not reflect the political, social and ideological spectrum of a country that is developed to the level of Korea. In other words, the conservatives are represented too heavily, while the liberals are underrepresented.
So where will the liberal, democratic forces of Korean society go?
If the legislature and the majority ruling party fail to establish agendas following the failure of the conservative administration, the only way left to correct the situation is the people’s direct resistance. This will revive politics by activism, and the confrontations between a conservative government and the public that Korea faced before democratization.
As we can see in the recent candlelight vigils, the reason behind the street conflicts was the administration’s incompetence and lack of willingness to communicate. That is why the legislature and the governing party’s abilities to listen and compromise are critical.
Direct fights such as the April 19 democratization movement, the Busan-Masan uprising and the June resistance have disassembled the nation’s administrations in the past. Fueled by a president’s unilateral decisions, such a situation was directly connected to the majority governing party’s failure to perform its roles. Politicians must remember this.
Third, it’s a matter of pragmatism. The logic of politics must become the logic of policies. Rather than pragmatically engaging a wide spectrum of ideologies and policies for the nation’s interests and achievements, the Lee administration is captivated by an “anti-liberal” and “anti-Roh Moo-hyun” ideology.
The Grand National Party must adopt a policy of objective pragmatism in order to lead the administration, compete with opposition parties and engage the public. Going beyond ideology, the party must widen its choices of policies.
Last, it’s because of the power structure of the ruling circle. Lee cannot abandon Park Geun-hye and her supporters due to the expected difficulties in governance. Lee cannot engage Park, because he is afraid of the challenge. Due to the nation’s single-term presidency, Lee, the incumbent power, and Park, the power of the future, are destined to remain far apart.
Ironically, the Lee administration cannot succeed without the help of the power of the future ? in other words, democracy based on party politics.
The Grand National Party and Park also need to check and cooperate with the administration to successfully secure their future. Otherwise, they are destined to head for failure, hand in hand.
*The writer is a professor of political science at Yonsei University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff
by Park Myeong-lim