Keep the momentum goingThe icy relations between President Lee Myung-bak and former political rival Park Geun-hye show signs of thawing.
The lingering conflict between the two, who battled it out in the presidential primary, had been the biggest hurdle to the new administration.
But a recent meeting between Lee and Park at the Blue House raises expectations that we’ll see more stability - and, dare we say, unity - in state management.
In April, when the Grand National Party suffered a major setback in the by-elections, we suggested that the ruling party and the government regain public trust by displaying solidarity and helping to ease the conflict between the faction supporting the president and the one aligned behind Park. The president is pushing forward with massive state reorganization projects through constitutional amendments and the redrawing of administrative districts and electorates. But to accomplish this, he needs the full support of the Park faction within the party.
Even if the mainstream partisans aligned with the president manage to muster votes from some opposition members, they cannot obtain the necessary support to pass the reform bills without Park’s backers. The merging and restructuring of the larger electorates is unfavorable to legislators from southeastern constituencies. To move to the new electorate system, votes from representatives of these areas are essential, but those legislators are mostly faithful to former party chairwoman Park.
The realignment in administrative districts needs assembly approval as well, again necessitating ballots in favor of the move from the Park faction. As demonstrated in the passage of the contentious media bill, the two factions must join hands if the Lee administration’s other ambitious projects are to see daylight.
President Lee has recently taken on an active role in fixing various rifts in society. His more engaging participation in politics and his efforts to reach out to the public have helped boost his approval rating above 50 percent. The rating tumbled when the president took a unilateral stance on some issues but rose when he tried to engage other views and communicate.
He must continue to move down this path. He must not indulge in his higher approval ratings and return to his old self-righteous style. He must prove his sincerity in trying to reconcile with Park. He must reach out to the main opposition Democratic Party and Liberty Forward Party as well as hard-line opposition groups. He must persuade them to agree to the big picture of the three reform projects as well as other major issues involving massive public funding - like the construction of a new administrative hub in the Chungcheong region and the renovation of four major rivers.
If the president and the opposition put their heads together, they can devise a way to appease the Chungcheong citizens and avoid division in the state administration. The president should not heed to rising popularity but instead use the momentum to move forward.