UPP needs emergency surgeryThe controversy over the rigged primaries in the opposition United Progressive Party has entered a new phase after its National Committee decided to recommend that not only party leaders but also 14 elected proportional representatives and candidates for the April 11 legislative election step down and take full responsibility for the nomination fraud. If the 14 members bow out, only six outsiders who didn’t participate in the primary will be left. The recommendation has yet to pass in the party’s Central Steering Committee meeting on May 12.
The UPP obtained six proportional representative seats with more than 10 percent of the votes for the party. That reflects considerable support from voters for the liberal party amid two major parties’ overwhelming dominance in Korean politics; voters want the minority party’s voice heard in the National Assembly. That’s why Koreans voted for the party despite such radical commitments as the severance of the traditional Korea-U.S. alliance, the withdrawal of U.S. forces stationed in Korea, the dissolution of the chaebols and the scrapping of the Korea-U.S. FTA. To meet such expectations, however, the party should display a morality and dignity befitting its new strength as a political party with 13 seats in the Assembly.
But the UPP’s response to the riveting crisis is quite disappointing. Rather than apologizing and holding all those concerned accountable, the mainstream faction, including co-chairperson Lee Jung-hee, has refused to accept the results of an investigation by a fact-finding committee and will not resign from leadership posts, despite the discovery of over 10 types of vote-rigging in the probe. A cover-up is more detrimental to the party than a fraudulent primary. If the UPP continues to deny what the fact-finding committee found, it shows contempt for the voters and inflexible adherence to its old image as an amateurish “ideology-based party,” not an official one running on taxpayer funds.
The phenomenal intra-party vote-rigging calls for the resignation of the leadership and proportional representatives-elect. After that, an emergency committee must present additional ways to reveal exactly what happened in the race so that anyone can understand who took such a despicable action in a democratic process and why. No matter what, election fraud of this magnitude cannot be taken for granted. Only when the UPP gets to the bottom of this corruption can it be born again. We expect a courageous whistleblower to emerge soon, as the party has shown the courage to expose scandals in the past.