After polls, politicians look toward cooperationNearly three weeks have passed since the June 4 local elections concluded with a tight finish between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD).
Among 17 key races, the Saenuri won in eight metropolitan and provincial elections, while NPAD won nine.
Although the chasm between the two parties has widened since the April 16 Sewol ferry accident - a tragedy that the main opposition blamed on the ruling party’s lack of surveillance and ineffective governance - recent steps to overhaul metropolitan and provincial councils suggest there is the possibility of reconciliation, and even collaboration.
In the southern port city of Busan, a traditional stronghold of the ruling Saenuri Party, Busan Mayor Suh Byung-soo, affiliated with the ruling party, held a breakfast meeting yesterday with NPAD council members to discuss municipal issues.
“I’ll frequently organize informal conferences [like this] with the main opposition party,” Suh pledged, suggesting he was willing to strengthen communication channels with his political rivals.
“Is it possible to separate the ruling and main opposition parties when considering what’s best for regional growth?” asked Moon Jae-in, an NPAD lawmaker representing Sasang District in Busan, who joined Suh at the breakfast table.
But when Moon implied that his party was willing to put forward its best efforts in helping Suh - and, in particular, that the appointment of an NPAD member as vice governor or a transition committee leader would be welcomed - Suh failed to come up with a definitive response.
“I’ll try to follow up [on your idea],” the mayor said.
In Gyeonggi, Governor-elect Nam Kyung-pil, from the ruling Saenuri, also took his chances to mend ties with NPAD, after coming up with the rare idea of handing the vice governor seat to NPAD.
“The ruling and main opposition parties should work side-by-side to serve everyone’s needs, regardless of whether they voted for me,” Nam said, stressing that he proposed the “coalition government” to eradicate the regional and ideological conflicts prevalent in the political sphere and among the public.
In his first meeting with NPAD lawmakers on June 18 to discuss policy matters, Nam opened the floor by saying, “It is a beginning with great significance. If [this coalition] sees positive outcomes, I will abandon my vested rights and walk toward a new path.” Similarly, Jeju’s Saenuri Governor-elect Won Hee-ryong was recognized for giving away a top post to the main opposition party, when he appointed Shin Koo-bum, his rival from the June 4 elections, as the head of his transition team.
When asked why Won offered Shin, former Jeju governor, the position, he answered that he wanted to supplement his lack of experience, and that policy-making required insight from various perspectives. “When parties from both sides cooperate, they’re better able to collect opinions from a wider spectrum of people,” said Choi Byung-dae, a professor of public administration at Hanyang University.
But, he warned, “The ruling and main opposition parties shouldn’t play politics with their collaboration.”
BY KIM SANG-JIN, CHOI CHUNG-IL AND LIM MYUNG-SOO [email@example.com]