Ahn’s unrealistic vows

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Ahn’s unrealistic vows

Independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo announced his vision for the country yesterday. Though it came much too late, it still carries weight as he has joined the fierce competition of policies. His criticism of the political establishment also partly explains the reasons behind his running for president. But most of his commitments are still incoherent and lack substance.

The major policies Ahn proposed reveal many loopholes as they don’t work under the current laws nor fit in with our political systems. He vowed he would implement major agreements between Seoul and Pyongyang through a bipartisan consensus in the National Assembly. But current laws do not stipulate any procedure to seek parliamentary consent on presidents’ policies except for issues involving international treaties, laws and budgets. Ahn also said that he will let a nominee for the head of the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) be recommended by the Assembly and grant legislative oversight of a president’s pardons.

However, the appointment of the BAI chief already needs parliamentary approval, and the president doesn’t have to seek consent from lawmakers under the Constitution. Ahn’s vows only demonstrate a critical lack of understanding of how the government works.

Ahn rightly said that our presidents have often used their rights to appoint influential posts as if they were war trophies. But reducing the number of such posts - from 10,000 to 1,000 - goes way beyond common sense, as it needs a drastic overhaul of the existing appointment system, which inevitably needs a massive revision of relevant laws. In a nutshell, those are largely populist and half-baked pledges. His vow to move the Blue House to a place nearer to the people also seems unrealistic. It’s a question of how to communicate, not where.

Ahn expressed his rosy visions for the economy, welfare, jobs and education. They are right in principle but still devoid of detailed plans on how to achieve them. A long list of euphemisms are not policies but political slogans. That is exactly what he attacks: old politics.

A president who runs as an independent with no political affiliation will most likely face immense obstacles during his or her term. Ahn, however, stopped way short of addressing the issue. He didn’t mention how to gather legislative forces if he is elected, or whether he will agree to the idea of unifying candidates in the opposition camp. He didn’t say a word about the future of his presidency, or when or if he should join the opposition Democratic United Party.

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