Mr. Indecision’s challengesAhn Cheol-soo, the failed presidential candidate from last December’s election and an independent lawmaker, has announced he will establish a new political party. The non-existent new party of Ahn has overwhelmed the main opposition Democratic Party in past popularity polls by at least a 10 percent margin. Despite the doubts over his leadership, his stunning popularity shows how desperately our people are looking for a new voice to overcome the endless political squabbling in Korea.
Announcing the launch of a committee to create a new political party yesterday, Ahn, a software-mogul-turned-politician, condemned the political establishment for its extremist fights on retrogressive ideological issues, even while the United States, China and Japan confront one another to secure their national interests over their air defense identification zones. Ahn vowed to gather new political forces under the banner of national integration, not division and dogmatism. Korean politics has turned into a wasteland of hatred and rage, extremism and showdowns. Former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, a former judge with no political background, called it an “emergency calling for the dissolution of the National Assembly.”
Ahn decided to set up a new party to correct the outmoded nature of Korean politics, which has lost its power to deal with crises. It is natural for him to express the intention to participate in next year’s local elections with an ambitious goal of revamping the outdated political structure. His arguments seem persuasive as the new party will lose its raison d’etre unless the divisive political system is changed.
However, suspicions linger over whether Ahn and his new party can overcome the jungle of realpolitik. His trajectory over the last couple of years makes us doubt his conviction as well as his character. In the 2011 Seoul mayoral election, he gave up his candidacy in a surprising compromise with Park Won-soon, the current mayor who is a member of the Democratic Party. In the 2012 presidential election, too, he ended from his candidacy after a last-minute “deal” with the DP candidate Moon Jae-in, a decision that bewildered his supporters and opponents alike. His announcement of a new party was also fuzzy on the details, to the embarrassment of the people. We can hardly find any firmness in his decisions or leadership, but instead just unclear messages and indecisiveness. If he cannot overcome such a critical deficiency, his declaration to set up a new party will end in vain.
The DP is pressuring Ahn to join in its camp for fear of splitting votes in coming elections. But the opposition’s attempt is nothing but political engineering for victory’s sake. If Ahn yields to the pressure, it means another betrayal of the moderates in our society.