Time for soul searchingThe main opposition Democratic United Party has selected Moon Hee-sang, a five-term lawmaker, as chairman of an emergency committee to lead the embattled party until a national convention is convened, probably in March. But the party faces many challenges, persistent factionalism in particular. After a crushing defeat in the December presidential election, the party was poised to choose a leader via a race between the mainstream faction and other groups. The last-minute decision to allow a seasoned politician take the helm of a party in peril is fortunate.
However, conflict over the identity of the party is still simmering. An argument calling for further reinforcement of its liberal stripes does not seem to understand why it lost the election last month. Its lawmakers should know all too well that their lust for power, using a facade of liberalism, was the main reason why voters in their 50s turned away from DUP candidate Moon Jae-in.
A normal party would struggle to revamp its policy direction after a crushing defeat in an election if it wanted to regain popularity before the next election. Yet the DUP resorts to a worn-out strategy of threatening to disapprove the appointment of Lee Dong-heub, a nominee for head of the Constitutional Court.
The party was defeated in the election even when it did its best to gather all the liberal forces into a big tent, including a wide spectrum of forces united through slippery concepts of progressivism, labor union rights and even pro-North Korea sentiment, not to mention moderate reformists attracted by independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo. A political party’s role is to filter all those mismatching ideas and maintain a cohesiveness until the next election to prove its viability as an alternative to the ruling party. As long as the party clings to outmoded factionalism and a belligerent mind-set stemming from the days of the democracy movement without some deep soul searching, it can hardly expect to return to a place where it can represent all liberal forces.
The party is at a crossroads. Whether it will succeed in transforming itself into a flexible party with room for expanding its power base from the 48 percent it won in the last election will depend on what does from now. The committee led by Moon must resuscitate the party. As Moon said at a press conference yesterday, the party is at a cliff-face.