Oh bodes poorly for governance

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Oh bodes poorly for governance

The political circle is in turmoil after Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon stepped down as he promised to if the referendum on free school lunches foundered.

His resignation was widely expected but nevertheless shook the ruling party and government. The sudden exit of a stable conservative pillar in the capital is expected to hang over the governance of President Lee Myung-bak, who has less than two years left in his term.

Oh has done the right thing by sticking to his promise to step down, after the referendum he had pushed to resist the city council’s decision to provide free school meals to all students in the capital failed to garner the minimum turnout required to make the vote valid.

Some members in the ruling party proposed that he resign in October so his successor could be chosen in the general elections in April.

But governance of the capital would have been disturbed without a mayor for more than eight months. It is best that his replacement is voted in as early as possible.

Oh’s departure will likely serve as a blow to President Lee. The Oct. 26 by-election is just one election in an already-tight election schedule, as it is followed by general elections in April and the presidential election in December.

Voters will be fatigued by a major election every six months or so. The election schedule will likely dominate the nation’s politics and likely restrain the president’s agenda before his term ends. The government has to realign its governance strategy more aggressively and meticulously.

The election also casts a dark cloud over the legislative schedule. The National Assembly embarks on its regular inspections and questioning into governance starting on Sept. 19. The sessions may devolve into a political brawl as both ruling and opposition camps try to get the upper hand ahead of Seoul’s mayoral by-election.

The usual end-of-year partisan wrangling over the budget could be fiercer. Both parties are likely to be more assertive and aggressive ahead of next year’s elections. The pending Korea-U.S. free trade agreement cannot even be presented to the legislature for review because of strong resistance from opposition parties. And the defense reform bill sits idle in a subcommittee. These crucial bills may not be settled during the incumbent legislative session. The government and ruling party should muster wisdom so that key state issues and affairs do not go ignored because of elections.
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