Daunting challenge for liberalsRepresentative Lee Jung-hee, co-head of the Unified Progressive Party, bowed out of the race for a legislative seat after the much-publicized controversy over rigging an opinion poll to win the candidacy in the opposition coalition. With a teary voice, she told a press conference that she will serve the party from the shadows. Her resignation from the election race is the right decision, but her action came too late. By resisting pressure until the last minute, she exposed various underlying problems of the hastily arranged marriage of the opposition parties as well as the mindset of the progressive political party.
The perspective and response to ethical standards was more problematic than the rigging incident itself. In responding to public criticism, the liberal camp displayed views that didn’t show much common sense. Their biggest weakness was a lack of morality, which is more intolerable because they emphasized their relative innocence and high moral standards compared with conservative mainstream politicians’. But the liberal forces presented themselves as equally unethical and insensitive.
Asking pollees to lie is clearly a plotted attempt to break the rules in a primary contest. Lee explained that she did not order members of the electorates in the liberal party to lie about their ages so that she could win the candidacy against a rival from the Democratic United Party. She also said the text messages only went to about 200 members. She admitted she erred, but dismissed it as insignificant and instead proposed a new primary. Her misperception of the gravity of her actions underscores her insensitivity to ethical values.
Self-justification is behind such moral insensibility among the progressive political force. They believe that because they have fought hard for justice amid tough conditions, they can be pardoned for small illegalities. They also commonly think their means can be justified because their political goal and principles are valuable. But such a self-righteous perspective is behind the times. We live in a mature democracy with an established system and order that must be followed in due process. They are free to believe their cause is just, but such liberty is tolerable within the legal boundary.
The progressive sector is no longer negligible on the political stage. The upcoming election will be an important test to their role. The party must demonstrate itself as a mature and ethical party befitting its new status by learning from the latest primary fiasco, or it otherwise won’t find a place in mainstream politics.