Empty cries for reformPresident Lee Myung-bak and Grand National Party Chairman Park Hee-tae met yesterday for the first time after the party was defeated in the April 29 by-elections. The president emphasized that the party must be reformed and unified, with Park at the center.
It is said that Park mentioned forming a special committee for reform and staffing it with people regardless of their factions, and the president agreed. Soon after, a rumor swirled inside the party that a senior member of Park Geun-hye’s camp will become the floor leader.
It is right that unity and reform were underscored. However, it is meaningless if they are mentioned only as political slogans without any tangible content.
As we have repeatedly pointed out, the root of division within the ruling party is the conflict between Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye. Park helped Lee win the presidential election but Lee did not keep his promise to make Park a partner in governing the country. Thus, President Lee has the responsibility to resolve the issue.
The recent election results support this view. In yesterday’s meeting, the president said it would be better if the ruling party did not reveal its factions and that he had emphasized there was no pro-Lee camp or a pro-Park camp.
However, despite the president’s remarks, the GNP revealed its preference for a certain faction.
In February, the president met with Park in secret but hard feelings were not softened and conflict broke out in the election in Gyeongju. As long as the conflict between the two camps remains unresolved, naming someone from Park’s camp as floor leader has its limits. If a floor leader does not have deep mutual understanding with the core power group, there could be confusion during the process of legislation.
It’s the same case with party reform. The party has loudly undertaken reform projects numerous times but they have not led to any change. In 2005 when Park was the party chairperson, the party reform committee led by Hong Joon-pyo prepared reform measures, such as separating the party leadership and the leadership of the administration, forming group leadership and introducing a democratic way of deciding party nominations in elections.
But the party is still subordinate to the Blue House and the leadership has not realized the goals it set for increasing unity.
As seen in the recent elections, the procedure of issuing party nominations is still old-fashioned. As long as it only restaffs some major posts, excludes Park’s group from senior posts, creates a reform committee for promotional purposes only and shouts unity only as a slogan, the GNP will never change.