More to strength than fightsLee Kang-rae has been elected as the floor leader of the Democratic Party. Since he failed in his attempt last year, he made consistent efforts and has now succeeded in taking the position. We congratulate him for his success. He will lead the major opposition party’s activities in the National Assembly for the next year and as floor leader has strong powers and heavy responsibility. Since the National Assembly has been unproductive since the chaos late last year, people desperately want drastic change.
Lee has advocated a strong opposition, and said he would consult Lee Jong-kul, a party hard-liner, on various issues. Lee earned many votes from representatives who wished to express their wish for a harder line. Lee condemned the media bills to be handled at the National Assembly in June as “the evil MB law,” an epithet derived from the president’s initials.
A strong opposition is good because it can represent public opinion and be more active in the Assembly. However, militant protests are not what a strong opposition party does. Lee also advocated an opposition party with alternatives. That means he wants not just to oppose the ruling party but also to present alternatives.
In reality, however, it is difficult to do both. In the past, opposition parties have had difficulty presenting policy. Instead, they concentrated on militant protests for their causes. Wild stunts, such as physical fights, were seen as a more effective way to gain attention than taking a moderate and rational stance, developing policies and legislating.
But these old practices no longer work. Many Democrats have criticized the former floor leader, Won Hye-young, who led the party in the National Assembly over the past year, for lacking a wild streak. The Democratic Party claims that it won the recent by-elections, but it is hard to see how the opposition party truly earned the people’s trust and support. The victory was mainly the result of factionalism in the ruling Grand National Party.
Being a strong opposition party is not sufficient to accomplish Lee’s pledges to increase the party’s approval rating to 25 percent and transform it from a regional to a national party. The Democratic Party must be a strong party and present alternatives at the same time. It should advocate its causes with policies instead of fights. The party must abide by the rules of the legislative process by presenting policies, negotiating and discussing alternatives. If the party condemns the ruling party’s bills as evil even before holding negotiations, urges the ruling party to withdraw its bills and blocks the Assembly with physical power, it may be regarded as strong, but it will not be viewed as a party with the best interests of the nation at heart.