Party reform is key

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Party reform is key

The Saenuri Party is set to hold its national convention on July 14. As many as 10 candidates are expected to run in the race for the party’s new leadership. In addition to Suh Chung-won, who has emerged as the head of pro-President Park Geun-hye forces after winning a by-election, and presidential hopefuls such as Kim Moo-sung and Rhee In-je, several other lawmakers are poised to enter the race, which will pick a chairperson and four other supreme members of the party.

The national convention carries great significance as it chooses a new leadership after the Sewol ferry disaster and the June 4 local elections. The new leadership has to support President Park for the next two years as well as nominate candidates for the April 2016 general elections.

The new leadership must aggressively participate in the government’s ambitious drive to change the nation on two fronts. One is enacting new laws or mending existing laws related to public safety and the other is reforming political parties. The latter, which comprises a pivotal part of the government’s campaign for a national revamp, is a task that cannot be delayed further. Despite the Park administration’s pledge to “normalize the abnormal,” the political sector is among the most abnormal parts of Korean society, for which the Saenuri Party must take primary responsibility.

Top priority for the political revamp is reform of the nomination system. Despite the ruling party’s promise to scrap party nominations for grass roots positions before the June 4 local elections, it went off track and abused opinion polls for the nominations in strategic areas. A lack of a solid nomination system only raises opaqueness in our politics. Under such circumstances, lawmakers cannot but curry favor with party leaders to get their nominations in the next round of elections.

The public is not happy with this state of affairs. As seen in the botched nomination of former Supreme Court justice Ahn Dae-hee as prime minister, the Saenuri Party adhered to his nomination despite public outrage over his earning a fortune at a law firm after retiring from the Supreme Court. Legislators even send a list of candidates for top government positions to the Blue House through the back door while criticizing the government’s golden parachute appointments.

Reform of political parties must be the core priority. Candidates must present their plans for reform and debate them before party members choose their new leaders. Without it, a national convention is meaningless. The Saenuri Party must reinvent itself.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 17, Page 30

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