All eyes on DUP floor leaderPark Ki-choon, the new floor leader of the Democratic United Party, has the heavy burden of reinvigorating and rebuilding the main opposition party after two major election losses. Park succeeds his former boss Park Jie-won, but his role could be more important than any of his predecessors.
He first has to raise the morale of the party after the defeat in the presidential election. The liberal party has lost to the ruling party in both legislative and presidential elections. But it failed to demonstrate genuine self-reflection and responsibility. It had its chance to pore over the reasons for its defeat in the April 11 legislative election but instead wasted time playing the blame game. Instead of meeting the needs of the people, it spent the campaign courting other liberal candidates to unite against the ruling party contender.
Most blame goes to the loyalists of former President Roh Moo-hyun that form the mainstream of the DUP. Park won through a runoff vote despite some complaint about his closeness with former floor leader Park Jie-won, a big wig in the former Democratic Party faction under the legacy of the late President Kim Dae-jung.
The new floor leader said he will change the party from the ground up. “We will no longer fight over immediate interests,” he said, suggesting sweeping reforms by targeting the factional power struggle and selfishness. The aggressive nature of a certain faction in the party sparked apprehension among the conservative population and scared voters.
The internal reforms should start from the basics. The work should not end as a simple renovation by changing a few faces, but must be a complete makeover. It is the least the party can do to repay the 48 percent of voters who cast their ballots for Moon Jae-in. The DUP faces an uphill struggle against the Saenuri Party that dominates both the executive and legislative branches. It is the only legitimate political group that can keep the powerful Park Geun-hye in check. At the same time, the party will have to cooperate with the ruling party. Many of the campaign platforms of President-elect Park and Moon overlap, especially on the economic and welfare front.
Park’s leadership will be tested immediately on settling next year’s budget bill. The ruling and opposition parties will have to rehash the populist laws that have been rubber-stamped during the campaign. The new leader should work to manifest a new party that serves the broader people, not a particular faction. The supporters of the DUP as well as the conservative population will be watching to see if he can live up to expectations.