Park should take the helmThe 14-year-old Grand National Party is on the verge of dissolution. The leadership attempted to muddle along after the party’s crushing defeat in the Oct. 26 Seoul mayoral by-election by feigning reform, but the party received a deadly blow after the arrest of a GNP lawmaker’s aide who is suspected of orchestrating a major cyberattack on the National Election Commission on election day. Three of the party’s executive members - Yoo Seung-min, Nam Kyung-pil and Won Hee-ryong - have resigned from their posts on the Supreme Council, prompting similar actions from other leaders. Meanwhile, reformist groups in the party have demanded that the party be dismantled and recreated.
But we have to question the wisdom of dissolving the party and reforming it under a new name. Dismantling the party without any attempt at self-reflection would be little more than a makeshift measure and would deceive the public. A party does not belong to a few members, but to the voters who support it.
A hastily formed party cannot last long. The Uri Party, the ruling party four years ago, also dissolved itself and re-emerged as the Democratic Party. But the party has never been stable. If the new ruling party suffers losses in the legislative elections, will it hurriedly create another one to prepare for the presidential election?
The realistic option is for the party to declare that it will reinvent itself through reform measures undertaken with new leadership. Current leader Hong Joon-pyo should step down. He has disgraced the party and title of party chairman with his actions. He has no credibility left.
An emergency warrants emergency measures. Among the field of ruling party leaders and aspiring presidential candidates, former party Chairwoman Park Geun-hye still has the support and respect of the people. She should step up as the relief pitcher. The GNP had been in a similar crisis in 2004, when it was swept up in a backlash following its pursuit of impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun and an illegal political fund-raising scandal. Park took control and sold GNP headquarters in a symbolic demonstration of the party’s humility before the people. As result, the party won a majority 121 seats. Park should again be asked to take the helm.
But Park cannot make reforms alone. Fresh and reform-minded people from outside the party should also be recruited. The party should also introduce a new competitive candidate selection procedure and present fresh candidates to run in the upcoming elections. The party cannot save itself by using a new name while presenting the same faces. Critics of the GNP will be watching closely for the sincerity of the reforms. There are many conservative voters waiting for real change this time.