Building a new oppositionThe main opposition Democratic Party has decided to return to the National Assembly, paving the way for the regular session to open in September as scheduled. It had been feared that the opposition would resist participation in the upcoming session to protest the ruling party’s unilateral passing of the media bills.
The DP should keep in mind that a walkout without legitimate cause is of little help to the party or to society. Only by learning from past mistakes can the DP progress.
The stampede has already begun among the opposition to fill the power vacuum left by the death of President Kim Dae-jung, who long served as the country’s iconic dissident leader. A combative stalwart of democracy, Kim grew up under dictatorship and military rule, and a charismatic leader like him will be difficult to find in modern society.
But a more urgent task for the main opposition party is the resuscitation of its identity and viability. Voters prefer an opposition that keeps the government in check and presents alternative solutions over knee-jerk protestors. The DP needs a practical leader who engages with voters. Senior DP member Park Ju-seon hit the nail on the head when he said Kim’s heir would be not an individual but the entire party.
The September assembly session could be the perfect stage for the DP to recover and redefine its role as the opposition. It could stand out most in questioning senior government officials and playing an oversight role. DP members should do their best to dig up the corruption and mistakes of the Lee Myung-bak administration. They should lash out at the incompetence of government officials, expose systematic problems and produce solutions.
The opposition should also make the most of its other powers, such as its authority to examine government finances. It needs to question the feasibility of multi-billion-won state projects such as the four river project and meticulously scrutinize government income and expenditures to protect taxpayers’ money.
What today’s voters want in the opposition is a formidable and productive rival to the ruling party eager to take equal responsibility and interest in state affairs. They pin even greater hope on the DP due to its decades of experience as the ruling party.
The government is pursuing historic changes to the Constitution and redrawing electoral and administrative districts. These reforms have long been sought by opposition members as well. The DP should be more enthusiastic in the debates and in setting up special committees for the reforms. We hope to see legislators capable of offering logical, feasible and responsible policy directions among opposition members.