Chance to chart a new pathFive new lawmakers were elected in Wednesday’s by-elections. The Democrats won three seats while the Grand Nationals picked up two. The outcome of the by-elections and its meaning must not be exaggerated or played down. Both the ruling and opposition parties must learn from these elections and use the knowledge to steer the nation.
Suwon-Jangan in Gyeonggi was the most closely watched district because it is located in the heart of the capital region, where regional divisions are not in play. Former Gyeonggi Governor Sohn Hak-kyu’s victory there for the DP sends a clear message to the administration. Although the president’s approval rating is over 50 percent, many voters are reluctant to fully support his governance.
The Lee administration is not handling key items on the national agenda well, such as the Sejong City administrative relocation plan, the four rivers development project, amendment of the Constitution and revision of administrative zones, and the election system. Furthermore, voters appear to be dissatisfied with the administration’s “people-friendly” policies.
Meanwhile, internal divisions continue to plague the ruling party. The outcome of the election could have been different for the party had former Chairwoman Park Geun-hye participated in the campaigning. In Yangsan, South Gyeongsang, former GNP Chairman Park Hee-tae had to put up a fierce fight, and the party’s internal split is largely responsible for his slim margin of victory there.
The Democratic Party won two seats in the capital region and one in North Chungcheong, and the victories are significant. The party’s leadership, including DP Chair Chung Sye-kyun, functioned properly, and all available assets including Sohn were utilized to its advantage. The DP should be proud of the outcome.
However, the DP must not use the victories to play politics. The party argues that voters have expressed their opposition to the four river project and their wish to push the Sejong City project forward as planned. Yet that is a rather far-fetched interpretation of reality.
The electoral district of North Chungcheong is located far away from the Sejong City site. It is composed of four small counties and regional issues are a major factor in area politics.
The four river project was never an issue in all five electoral districts.
The by-elections, which involved just five lawmakers, cannot be seen as a midterm evaluation of the administration. The results of complex elections such as these are determined by local issues and the characters of individual candidates.
The three-to-two victory is not a reward for the Democrats’ lack of identity in the aftermath of the media reform bill crisis. The Democrats must use the victory as a chance to find a new path for a new party and a new identity.