Grand reform project

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Grand reform project

With just over a month left until the halfway point of Lee Myung-bak’s term on Aug. 25, the ruling Grand National Party elected a new leadership at its national convention yesterday. The new leaders are entrusted with an important mission: internally, they must help consolidate the Lee administration’s governance; externally, they should solidify a foundation for regaining power in the 2012 presidential election.

The GNP should also re-establish its image as a conservative party in the realms of security, North Korea relations, the economy and welfare. The most important ingredient for accomplishing that will be the party’s ability to realize harmony and reform.

Another result of the convention was that the GNP expanded after Future and Hope United, formerly the Pro-Park Alliance led by former GNP chairwoman Park Geun-hye, returned to the party. Two years ago, a group of pro-Park loyalists broke away from the GNP because the ruling party refused to nominate pro-Park members in the April 2008 general elections. That is the core of the conflict between Lee and Park.

With its other half having returned to the fold, the new GNP leadership should take care with the nominations for the upcoming April 2012 general elections. The party’s new constitution contains a new provision about the nomination process that should facilitate the procedure. It stipulates that a nomination committee be established prior to the election and that nominations for National Assembly seats and local government offices take polling results into account. The new GNP leadership should do its best to prevent factional conflicts by observing these rules.

Of course, the foundation for harmony within the party will be reconciliation between President Lee and the former GNP chairwoman. The mainstream faction, including Lee, should guarantee Park a fair competition for nominations in upcoming elections. Park, for her part, should let go of her grudges over the “nomination massacre” of 2008. Ahn Sang-soo, the new chairman of the GNP, is a leader representing the pro-Lee faction of the party, rather than an administrator like Park Hee-tae or Chung Mong-joon. This should give him some leverage in building a bridge between Lee and Park.

Meanwhile, the rampant mudslinging displayed as the race for the party leadership grew more and more fierce makes us wonder if the GNP has the ability to genuinely reform itself. Some of the candidates even danced to the tune of the opposition parties in an effort to attack their rivals, leaving indelible scars on the administration.

Korean society is faced with tough challenges — both internally and externally. In addition to our problems with national security, North Korea policy and education, the people’s anxiety about their lives is growing. Unless the mammoth party, which now has 176 seats in the National Assembly, changes itself, voters will hold it accountable the next time around.
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