Flex power in the AssemblyAhn Sang-soo, a prominent figure of the pro-President Lee Myung-bak mainstream, has been elected as new floor leader of the Grand National Party. The floor leader of the ruling party is important because he or she is the president’s muscle in the National Assembly, even more important now that GNP Chairman Park Hee-tae does not have a seat as a lawmaker. Many representatives supported Lee in the conflict with Park Geun-hye because they have a greater responsibility to solve national problems than before. The leading figures of the National Assembly, including floor leader Ahn and Rep. Kim Seong-jo, head of the GNP policy research institute, have much work to do.
We are now three months into the second year of the Lee term, but national affairs are still unstable, politics are chaotic and social conflict is rapidly expanding. Lee’s approval rating remains at around 30 percent. The ruling party has taken a morale hit due to internal strife and its crushing defeat in by-elections on April 29.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party, the main opposition, has joined with other parties and civic organizations to “fight to obstruct” Lee’s “anti-public welfare and anti-democratic laws.” The DP has announced that the GNP’s media bill must be fixed through public consultation, threatening a “fight for our lives.” As the unionized truckers wielding sticks showed, labor unions including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions are ready to fight the “June fights” of the progressive camp.
Despite the repeated electoral defeats suffered by the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration, ideological conflict is not dying down. Even the judiciary has been caught up in a firestorm with the Supreme Court Justice Shin Young-chul scandal. Conflicts regarding inter-Korean issues, including the Kaesong Industrial Complex, also seem to be spreading.
The Grand National Party needs to renew its commitment to improving how it handles national affairs with the coming of a new leadership and to put a stop to internal conflict. First, the National Assembly should actively discuss the media law and economic and social reform bills to narrow differences in opinion by June.
The legislative process has been in dispute from the end of last year through the spring, with much hand-wringing regarding banking and commerce, the capital gains tax, the bar examination law and other issues. This was not healthy discussion, but irresponsible chaos. Policy meetings were generally quiet. If the GNP does not take control of the Assembly in June, the administration could lose its momentum and face a crisis. The new floor leaders must remember the duties of the majority and flex their political power in negotiations with the opposition.