Ahn Cheol-soo’s challenges

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Ahn Cheol-soo’s challenges

A thick fog over the political scene finally lifted when undeclared dark horse Ahn Cheol-soo officially announced his presidential bid yesterday. With his declaration, the race has turned into a battle among the ruling Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye, main opposition Democratic United Party contender Moon Jae-in and the doctor-turned-software-mogul-turned-professor-turned-politician.

Ahn entered the race after having enjoyed remarkable support, and that is a testament to voters’ deep mistrust of the political establishment. Now he must undergo harsh scrutiny of his qualifications as a leader. Considering that both Park and Moon already went through tough screening processes in their parties, Ahn will no longer have the luxury of a free ride.

At the press conference, Ahn said he will run for president to confront the challenges of the times, adding that if politics don’t change, lives won’t change, and unless we overcome the politics of hatred and division, nothing can change no matter who is elected president. His perception of our situation seems appropriate.

Despite rapid advancement in democracy since the 1987 democratization movement, the political scene has been inundated with outmoded ideological fights, ruthless political engineering and incorrigible factionalism. Ahn’s candidacy based on “national integration through political revamp” - not on “taking power by whatever means” - is sufficiently noteworthy.

Nonetheless, Ahn’s capability as president is still shrouded in obscurity. With 90 days left until the election, he didn’t mention with whom he plans to do politics or how he will organize his campaign or even what policies he would pursue as president. Is he unprepared, or is it a strategic concealment? His speech sounded scanty and even insincere, particularly given citizens’ one-year-old fatigue from his signature “trailer politics” and “politics of timing.”

National governance requires a president and his or her aides, not to mention a political party, who share the same convictions and responsibilities. Ahn said he will introduce them at the proper time, but he should not drag his feet on this critical issue.

In the 2002 presidential election, Chung Mong-joon, a current lawmaker of the Saenuri Party, couldn’t take center stage because he failed to clarify his values, allies and political ability. Ahn has not yet proven that he has two of those three qualifications: allies and political ability.

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