Pitching a big tent

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Pitching a big tent

President-elect Park Geun-hye yesterday vowed to accommodate a wide spectrum of public opinion and maximize people’s capabilities by making appointments free of regional, generational and ideological differences. That job must begin with her presidential transition team.

Conventional wisdom says that an administration’s fate hinges on what the president-elect does in the days between the moment of election and the moment of inauguration. Organizing the transition team is never an easy job, and it will be even harder given all the euphoria following a victory in a neck-and-neck race. That provides the conditions for making fumbles when attempting to choose qualified, dedicated and talented staff.

To avoid such mistakes, the president-elect and her transition team should not behave like occupation forces after a war, even if that’s how they feel. The team’s main goal is to prepare for government, not judging the merits and demerits of the previous administration and its participants. If they try to find fault with the outgoing government, they can hardly expect to receive the information they need to take over. Cooperation with an incumbent president is a must, too. We welcome President Lee Myung-bak’s executive order to his secretaries to provide full support to Park’s transition team.

The grand coalition the president-elect seeks must start with the appointments on her transition team. Some of them will be hired as presidential secretaries or positions that amount to a shadow cabinet. She could also be pressured for time as she must wrap up organizing her government by early February at the latest. She must exercise prudence by learning lessons from the outgoing Lee Myung-bak administration, which became infamous for revolving-door appointments mostly based on cronyism and personal connections.

Park should be particularly careful about moving her campaign staff into government posts. Campaign abilities are one thing and administrative talents completely different, as seen in many cases that ended in failure in the past. If the need arises, she can hire her campaign aides later in her term after first letting them polish their administrative abilities at the policy center of the Saenuri Party.

The presidential transition team must present the big directions for Park by weeding out some of her overly rosy promises. Otherwise, those rash or unwise promises can turn into a huge burden later. More importantly, the president-elect must not forget she is a president with a critical audience as large as 14.69 million people: the people who voted against her. That’s precisely why she must erect a truly big tent for what she calls a grand coalition representing all Koreans.
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