Old rivals need a new pathThe Grand National Party has reshuffled its executive posts and launched a committee to reform the party after a humiliating defeat in the recent by-elections. But such a superficial makeover falls short of solving the fundamental problems of the ruling party. The majority party’s biggest problem lies in the turf war between the followers of President Lee Myung-bak and supporters of former party leader Park Geun-hye. The cleft was accentuated in the Gyeongju election in North Gyeongsang where a Park acolyte won the constituency as an independent candidate.
The power struggle has divided the party and led it into an abyss. Party executives are pitted against one another and cannot connect with other party members. The lack of party unity deprives them of a voice with which to pitch an array of policies such as scrapping the capital gains tax for owners of multiple homes and deciding on new guidelines for the bar exam.
More recently, Kim Young-sun, chairman of the GNP’s National Policy Committee, chastised party executives for meddling with a financial bill that led to the party’s failure to pass a much-needed financial holding company bill in the National Assembly. Political struggle and strife has been common in past ruling parties, but not to this extent.
The fault lies mainly with the main faction of pro-Lee supporters. They neglected their campaign promise to retain former party leader Park as a governing partner while offering her followers equal standing in the party’s nomination process. In the United States, after taking office, President Barack Obama kept firmly to his word and offered rival Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton the post of Secretary of State. President Lee and his followers may still hold a grudge against Park and her supporters for the scandalous attacks against them during the presidential election. But they must put that behind them to keep the party afloat in the halls of government. They must embrace the Park faction and listen to its complaints to bring order back to the government.
Park’s influence was demonstrated once again in the by-elections. It’s hard to say how long her magic will last, but if the ruling party continues as is and fares poorly in future elections, Park may fall among voters who dislike her role in instigating friction within the party. Park survives only if the GNP does. For her to succeed, the ruling party must also be conservative. Lee and Park must put their legendary rivalry aside to set the ruling party’s path.