Moon’s challengesThe main opposition Democratic United Party elected Moon Jae-in as its presidential candidate yesterday. In the most momentous event of a political party, Moon became the final winner after 13 consecutive victories in the nomination race. That bestows a great personal honor - and huge responsibility - on him after his party’s crushing defeat in the last presidential election five years ago.
Despite the DUP’s ardent wish to regain power, though, the party’s primary was shrouded in a mist of uncertainty due to liberal independent Ahn Cheol-soo, the undeclared dark horse in the December election. Ahn’s intention to run has gotten clearer, and the DUP faces another elephantine challenge: How to select a single candidate between Moon and Ahn.
The 57-year-old Democratic Party, which has as many as 128 lawmakers in the National Assembly, must deeply wonder how it has come to the point of staking its future on a negotiation with a doctor-turned-software developer-turned professor with no party affiliation. Without solid self-reflection and relentless reform, the party could disappear with the wind.
Since the local elections in 2010, the fielding of single candidates in races has become routine in the opposition camp. It’s a good strategy. But the main opposition party has never been as lethargic as this before, an unequivocal testament to its belief that anything is okay as long as the Saenuri Party is defeated in the election.
The DUP must re-establish its identity by thoroughly analyzing the precise reasons how it lost the people’s trust. Before the April legislative elections, its leadership - including former chairwoman Han Myeong-sook - vowed to repeal the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement during a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. If the DUP maintains such misconceived policy approaches and raises controversy over undemocratic nomination procedures, as seen in its presidential primaries, it cannot expect to win anything. Since the DUP elected its presidential candidate, voters now want to know who he is and what he wants to do as president. That means the party must present campaign platforms and a responsible vision for the nation’s future befitting of a ruling party.
Even if the DUP manages to get behind a single candidate after negotiations with Ahn, it is likely to play a critical role as either a ruling party or opposition party. More important than taking power, however, is re-establishing public trust first.