The new political party’s challenges

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The new political party’s challenges

The liberal opposition camp formally launched the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, a new coalition party with 130 seats in the National Assembly that is emerging as a formidable rival to the ruling Saenuri Party ahead of the June local elections. The new party brings together the main opposition Democratic Party and followers of independent politician Ahn Cheol-soo. The merger was criticized as a marriage of convenience to gain ground in the elections, especially as Ahn commands popularity among younger voters. The new party is obligated to justify its creation through reformative actions and breakthrough politics.

The party has declared itself centrist in its party platform and policy vision. It upheld all the intentions and good will behind the landmark inter-Korean summit agreements achieved by liberal presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, as well as fundamental principles for inter-Korean relations announced by military generals-turned-presidents Park Chung Hee and Roh Tae-woo. It honored not only the four major democracy movements in modern history, but also the “people’s devotion to economic development,” giving equal importance to the two pillars that helped shape today’s Korea - democratization and industrialization.

The party also emphasized a “strong South Korea-U.S. alliance” and an “open and liberal commerce country through free trade agreements,” moving away from the Democratic Party’s past opposition to a free trade pact with the United States and its critical attitude toward Washington.

The DP, under the leadership of Han Myeong-sook, declared that it would nullify the trade pact with the United States if it secured ruling power in the 2012 presidential election.

The new party also announced a reform plan. If any of the party’s members are accused of corruption and loses a parliamentary seat, it will not offer up an alternative candidate to run in the by-election. The no-tolerance rule against irregularities should be applied extensively in the party to distance itself from old practices. Yet the DP had Representative Sul Hoon, who was sentenced for making false accusations during the last presidential election, act as the party’s negotiator for the merger, and Ahn did not protest even as he promised his politics would be different from the old style. The new party should act out its no-tolerance principle in the upcoming elections and enact other political reforms.

It must put into practice its promise of ending central party recommendations for candidates for local elections. However, former DP members argue that the party would be at a disadvantage against the Saenuri Party, which plans to select the list for mayoral and gubernatorial candidates. But it was the new party that set the rule in the first place. If it overturns its promise, it will lose credibility for deviating from its intended platform.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 27, Page 30

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