[Viewpoint] Are we ready for the election?There are 210 days left until the December 19 presidential election. It may seem a long period in the political arena because many unforeseen events are likely to unfold, but the time will fly to select a proper president.
Seven months is not even enough time to set up a decent company, so we are at a critical juncture. Seven months is not even enough time for a student to cram for the college admissions test.
And yet, even at this late state, voters only have glimpses of the possible presidential contenders, and no understanding of their thoughts or visions. This year’s presidential election can already be considered highly unusual.
The situation was different in 2007. At that time, then-Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak opened the Anguk Forum and launched his presidential campaign in May. After shaping his vision, strategies and tactics, he presented specific projects one after another, including the four-rivers restoration project.
Representative Park Geun-hye also started her presidential camp in early 2007 and made public a list of her advisors for foreign affairs and security affairs. She also outlined her vision for the economy and education.
Although negative campaigning was pretty fierce, the voters had information on the presidential contenders’ aides and how their visions and policies were shaped. Of course, it was possible because the presidential primary for the ruling party came in August that year.
The presidential hopefuls’ presentations of their visions have been particularly weak this year because the legislative election took place in April. That, the voters can accept. Who doesn’t know the political schedule? But the politicians themselves are to blame too and there is no reason for voters to waste their precious time watching mudslinging factional fights within and between the political parties.
Politicians often say their events, such as primaries, are “big hits.” But they must remember that a successful event requires rich content. Slogans and dances do not make a big hit.
Forming alliances is a similar problem. Moon Jae-in, a presidential contender of the Democratic United Party, brought up the possibility of creating a partnership with Professor Ahn Cheol-soo, but the plan was nothing but political calculations. Neither side has a vision that will appeal to voters. Come to think of it, the main predicament of the liberals is the result of the lame political calculation of forming an alliance for the legislative election with people who believe in North Korea’s juche (self-reliance) ideology.
A recent opinion poll threw cold water on the politicians. According to a poll by the Hankyoreh Shinmun conducted earlier this month on voters, the lower their incomes, the more they will support the conservative party. Politicians will try to factor that idea in their political calculations, but the key to the survey is not liberals versus the conservatives. The key is that the liberalism and conservatism have no meaning.
In another recent poll on the ideological spectrum, only voters aged between 45 to 50 have clear ideological positions, while other generations had no specific ideological positions.
Why do the politicians miss this? Voters are hungry for real ideas that will show them a way out of a harsh reality and unclear future.
A strong presidential candidate should understand this. Instead of paying attention to the political calculations, they should have presented real content, but they didn’t.
It doesn’t appear they were concealing their ideas because they were afraid their rivals would copy them. The presidential contenders appear to have weak networks and poor ideas. If they at least appealed to a single issue, the voters would get it. But as of now, no candidate appears to have the strength to present a decent idea.
The media’s role is also disappointing. Instead of just following the politicians’ activities, they should scrutinize the candidates’ positions, but they don’t bother. The DUP made a pledge that it will create 660,000 jobs every year, 3.3 million in total. The voters want to know what the liberal presidential contenders are thinking about that.
Representative Chung Mong-joon said the economy needs to grow up to 6 percent to accommodate 300,000 new jobs every year. The voters want to know how the country will achieve the growth first.
And some candidates have not yet spoken about foreign affairs at all!
Because the legislative and presidential elections are in the same year, the table was set extravagantly for those with political ambitions. There are many places to sit. But the table for the voters is looking very meager indeed.
Let’s go back to the beginning of this year. Everyone agreed that the legislative and presidential elections are the crucial moments that will determine the country’s destiny and our future because of the kind of instability we now see in global affairs, particularly in the economy. We know many reforms are needed.
Did we make the right choice in the April 11 legislative elections? Are we going to have a presidential election with proper preparations? Or are we going to have just this white noise that constantly surrounds us?
*The author is the editor in chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Kim Su-gil