DP stands for disgraceful partyDemocratic Party Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu offered to step down on Tuesday after his party’s candidate lost to an outsider in the primaries for the upcoming Seoul mayoral by-election, then backpedaled yesterday.
While it comes as no shock that the head of the main opposition party elected to take the blame for its failure, the significance of the defeat does not seem to have hit home.
For the first time in the DP’s 50-year history, it has failed to produce its own candidate for a major public office. Park’s victory is a triumph of people power but a resounding defeat for mainstream politics. In this sense, the DP has cast shame on all of the political parties and must endeavor to restore its image.
However, the opposition camp is so blase right now that the executive council advised Sohn to withdraw his resignation. Members named beating the Grand National Party as the top priority - at whatever cost - as it would be humiliating for the ruling party to lose its grip on the capital. Indeed, many in the DP take the popularity of Park Won-soon as a positive since the lawyer-turned-activist has gained broad support online and among young voters, which has set him up for post traditionally reserved for conservative politicians.
As was painfully evident, the primaries exposed the weaknesses of the DP, showing how it failed because it was no longer attractive to the public. The DP has 300,000 registered members, but few showed up voting booths, unlike Park’s supporters, who were meticulously well-organized and galvanized into action by social networking services.
Even the young, who are usually drawn to anti-government opposition camps, turned their collective back on the party, underscoring their disappointment with the DP. Park’s refusal to link arms with the party is simply another indicator of its loss of credibility, as he could have enjoyed far better funding and fewer campaign restraints as its representative. Despite these obvious advantages, he still decided that he would gain more by running as an independent candidate.
Although the DP cannot take all of the blame for what transpired, the time for self-reflection has clearly arrived. First of all, its populist welfare promises - such as vowing to halve college tuition fees - are unprofessional and irresponsible. But what matters most in politics is politicians. The DP needs to overhaul the way it selects candidates to be transparent and free of favoritism.