DUP needs new leadershipHan Myeong-sook, head of the opposition Democratic United Party, stepped down after the liberals’ defeat in the legislative election on Wednesday. She was right to swiftly take responsibility. The DUP failed to demonstrate credible leadership during the campaign. The voters’ undeniable response calls for a new leadership and a new direction from the party. Some in the party argue that the election result - which ended in the Saenuri Party securing 152 of the total 300 seats and therefore the majority - was not a complete defeat. And they have been trying to talk Han out of her resignation. Such complacency, however, is what led to the upset in the election, which the opposition could have won. Post-election opinion polls say the people believe the party lost big. Han also said in a press conference announcing her resignation that her party failed to meet public expectations or harness the longing for change of the people.
Arrogance led to misjudgment, indolence and impotence. The DUP simply sought a free ride on the plummeting popularity of the Lee Myung-bak administration. According to a survey by the Korean Association of Party Studies, respondents who said the DUP excelled in its campaign platform stopped at 21 percent, compared with the Saenuri’s 45 percent. As to the nomination of candidates, just 11 percent approved of the DUP’s choices, while the Saenuri’s was approved by 60 percent. Many supporters of the DUP didn’t bother to vote because they had no candidate they liked.
The party more than anything needed a strong leadership as it was reborn by merging various liberal forces. But the leadership wobbled and feebly responded to the opinion poll rigging by Lee Jung-hee, co-leader of the Unified Progressive Party, that led to a defeat of the DUP candidate in a primary in Seoul. It also nominated popular podcast host Kim Yong-min as a candidate despite his scandalous outspokenness. It kept silent when fiery criticism flared around controversial candidates.
A coalition loses its meaning if it only serves as a joint front against the ruling party. Voters critical of the government do not simply cast a ballot for an opposition candidate because he or she is from the opposition. The DUP underestimated voters’ judgment and prepared for the election with an easy reliance on negative campaigning and populist campaign promises. The DUP must demonstrate creative direction under a new leadership and live up to its role as the main opposition party .