GNP fumbles its mayoral chanceLee Seog-yeon, a human-rights lawyer turned civic-group activist turned cabinet minister, said he will run for Seoul’s mayor next month as a conservative candidate. He poses a direct challenge to Park Won-soon, a liberal standard-bearer with a similar background.
The Grand National Party and the Democratic Party have been pitiful in their search to woo outside popular candidates who could match the splash Ahn Cheol-soo, a popular technocrat and professor of software technology, has made. Park, not well-known until recently, claimed the media and political spotlight only after Ahn bowed out and endorsed him.
Lee, a former minister of government legislation, suddenly seems to be a formidable conservative contender for Park and a bright star for the GNP, which has been faring poorly in its search for a candidate. He was courted by Representative Joo Ho-young at the order of the GNP leader, Hong Joon-pyo, to run as a ruling party candidate. Lee turned down the offer to join the GNP primary election for the Seoul mayoral nomination. Doing so, he said, would kill both him and the party. He said he would run only as a “pan-conservative” candidate. The GNP is now mulling how to unite conservative forces to field Lee as the right’s candidate.
We have to question whether the ruling party has any dignity left. It looks pathetic begging outside figures to run as its candidate. The GNP leadership desperately wants to win over this candidate, who considers the party a graveyard, at the stake of stirring up another party conflict by making potential candidates among party members pose as his cheerleaders in the upcoming primary. The GNP has cried foul at the DP for riding on Park’s newfound popularity and mustering liberal forces to field a single candidate but is now doing exactly the same thing.
The aura surrounding Ahn underscores the public’s need and demand for a new style and role model in politics. Just because Ahn yielded to support Park does not mean the ruling party must also come up with a similar figure. If the GNP took Ahn’s wave of popularity seriously, it should have tried to reinvent itself. But the party has been stumbling over conflicts of interest among different factions and individuals.
From its track record, the GNP’s chances of staying alive in the capital’s government look dim. It should regain its composure and conduct its primary election transparently and fairly. It must produce a candidate who won a primary fair and square and who can stand confidently before the voters.