Put the parliament back on trackSaenuri Party floor leader Yoo Seong-min finally yielded to party pressure and stepped down from his office. He has waged a war of tension on President Park Geun-hye who angrily condemned Yoo for his “politics of betrayal” and exercised veto power against bipartisan legislation that would empower the National Assembly to demand revisions in presidential decrees. Yoo had brokered a deal with the main opposition to pass a government employees’ pension reform bill. The veto has caused a showdown between the party and the presidential office as well as a legislative stalemate. Regardless of his own reasons, it was right for Yoo to resign to help restore order.
The controversy however, could leave lasting scars on both the president and Saenuri Party. It underscored the lack of trust and coordination in the ruling party. The president and party leaders all spoke differently about the affair. If they took the time to discuss and coordinate policy affairs, this could have been avoided. The president’s narrow-minded governing style is a problem, but it was also wrong for a ruling party floor leader to publicly go against the president. Both the president and the ruling party must be ashamed to have caused such a fiasco for the public.
Yoo’s resignation cannot easily mend the rift between the ruling party and presidential office. The factional fight between the loyalist and non-mainstream groups could resurface over deciding on candidates to run for the next general election. The president’s reform addenda could further lose steam amid political strife. The president is in her third year, but hasn’t made any tangible progress in the four-part reform agenda for the public sector, labor, finance and education. The remainder of the year is the only time she can push ahead with the agenda since elections are planned starting next year. But she cannot do so without help from the legislature.
The presidential office and ruling party must do their utmost to improve their relationship. The president should appoint her new secretary for political affairs with a candidate that can work closely with politicians from both camps and coordinate between the government and National Assembly. The president also must be more open-minded and engaging. Lessons must be learned from the fiasco with the floor leader so that it may be used as an opportunity to improve politics.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 9, Page 34