Don’t forget the nightmare

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Don’t forget the nightmare

The ruling Grand National Party has launched a committee to nominate candidates for the April 11 legislative elections. Of the 11-member committee, eight were recruited from outside, including Chairman Chung Hong-won, former inspection director of the prosecution, and Deputy Chairman Chung Jong-sup, dean of the college of law at Seoul National University. The GNP attached such modifiers as “firm,” “stern” and “upright” to the names of the chairman and deputy chairman, in particular, to suggest that it is deeply conscious of the need for fairness in nominations. Here’s why.

In the previous legislative elections in 2008, the GNP established a nomination screening committee with a multitude of outsiders. The chairmanship was taken by Ahn Kang-min, former head of the powerful central investigation unit of the prosecution. As a chief prosecutor, Ahn led investigations into the slush fund scandals by former presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo. The party hired him as a symbol of strict neutrality in the nomination. The committee, however, was shaken by mounting pressure from the pro-Lee Myung-bak faction in the party. As a result, a number of pro-Park Geun-hye lawmakers were denied nominations in what was dubbed a “nomination massacre.” The committee excluded many legislators with outstanding records because they were part of anti-Lee Myung-bak forces.

Since the crisis, the factional schism deepened and the pro-Park group has refused to cooperate with the government. The conflict over the nomination is likely to emerge this time, too. As soon as the nomination committee was launched, it demanded a change of the guard rather than approaching the issue from the perspective of a fair system. Now several committee members vehemently insist those responsible for Lee’s governance failure - i.e. pro-Lee forces - step back and retreat before the election. But it will only incur more conflict from the pro-Lee faction.

A political party thrives on a fair nomination. Only when it operates its nomination committee fairly and objectively can the dropouts be persuaded. The GNP’s emergency council headed by Park Geun-hye should be able to protect the neutrality of the nomination committee. Park and the pro-Park group should not get involved in the nomination process without reminding themselves of the nightmare they suffered four year ago. If the party fails to do that - no matter how glitzy the policies it may come up with - a genuine makeover is far-fetched.

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