The merger quagmire

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The merger quagmire

The negotiations between the opposition Democratic United Party candidate Moon Jae-in and independent contender Ahn Cheol-soo to field a single candidate for the liberals in the Dec. 19 presidential election are total nonsense. The dueling contenders tried to strike a final deal on how to conduct an opinion poll to merge their candidacies but couldn’t agree on the wording. The Moon camp called it a Maginot Line. But few can believe either candidate’s promises anymore.

Moon and Ahn promised to wrap up their merger before the official registration period Sunday to Monday in a seven-article announcement a fortnight ago. Even though they agreed that a poll will decide the issue, they still need time to figure out the wording and establish a monitoring body. If any problems - technical or otherwise - occur during the survey, it will break their vow to finish the merger by Monday. And the election is in total confusion.

It all began with selfish attitudes on both sides. In the 2002 presidential election, then-Democratic Party candidate Roh Moo-hyun joined candidacy merger negotiations with the third contender, Chung Mong-joon, with sincerity - even risking a collapse of the party - while Chung gladly accepted his aides’ agreement with their counterpart even when Chung’s approval rate continued to drop.

Moon has so far sought to take advantage of his image as a “conciliatory big brother” without sacrificing his party, while Ahn gives the impression that he pressured his negotiation team too hard to win the competition to the bewilderment of many voters. Such narrow-mindedness definitely contributed to the breakdown of their merger negotiations.

In the 1997 presidential election, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil finished their merger 47 days before the election by drafting their own written agreements first and striking a deal with their counterparts later. This kind of unprecedented chaos and egocentrism could not be found. Moon and Ahn cannot escape mounting criticism that they betrayed their promise to neatly merge their candidacies.

Both men should do two things. First, they must apologize to voters for creating a quagmire by resorting to a popularity poll, an idea that draws criticism even from the opposition camp for being unreasonable. It’s not much better than drawing lots. We hope both candidates realize in the future that election runoffs are held for a reason.Second, if both fail to keep their merger promise by the official registration day, which is Monday, they may well pursue separate bids. They should even think about telling voters to wait until Dec. 9, the day ballots are printed.
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