Consensus before party lineThe last local elections brought stunning victories for opposition party candidates, largely through an aggressive antigovernment campaign and pacts to field single opposition candidates. Mayors and governors from opposition lineage who vehemently opposed major state projects have been observed keenly, as their choices and actions can set the direction in the relationship between the central and local governments.
Three governors who campaigned from the opposition camp are under the spotlight for their different choices. In the beginning, they all opposed the four-rivers renovation project.
But North Chungcheong Governor Lee Sijong of the Democratic Party reversed his campaign platform and accepted the conservative government’s outline to dam and dredge the Geum River, except for a small modification in the construction plan on bicycle lanes along the riverbank. He had faithfully followed the DP’s hard-line policy on the four-rivers project amidst heated election among his constituency. But upon taking office, he formed a special task force comprised of scholars, councilmen and civilian representatives to re-evaluate the government’s project. He finally polled 12 mayors and district chiefs, and all approved of the plan. The construction is now free to go on in North Chungcheong.
Meanwhile, South Gyeongsang’s Kim Dukwan recently announced that he will reject the government’s plan to refurbish the Nakdong River - but wants to keep the authority to license and oversee construction. He maintains his position against the government plan, even as all 10 cities and districts adjacent to the Nakdong River support the project. His decision has been deeply influenced by opposition party executives. Kim, an independent candidate, was elected largely because other opposition parties decided to support him and waiver opposition candidates.
South Chungcheong Governor An Hee-jung of the DP also reaffirmed that he will reject the plan to dam and dredge the southern part of the Geum River. No district chiefs from the regions along the Geum River oppose the construction. But An maintains that a special committee has come to such a conclusion after a feasibility study.
The three governors have gone separate ways. One rejected the party position for the benefit of residents, while the other two ignored public consensus. They should not forget there is another election in four years.