An overbearing committee

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An overbearing committee

Since its landslide defeat in April 29 by-elections, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) created a reform committee to carve out a new direction for the party and fresh goals. The ad hoc committee was dissolved earlier this week, however, ending up widening rifts in the party. Its reform outline failed to achieve a consensus because it merely proposed changes in the human organization rather than the system.

Regardless of disgruntlement about some of the details, the reform proposal passed a vote by the central committee. It has now become legitimate. Under the proposal, competitive elections to select executive members and a secretary-general will be scrapped. Instead, a public panel of 300 to 1,000 for each constituency will select candidates for elections. The candidates will be screened by an independent review board. Anyone who has been found guilty of a crime will be denied a nomination.

The reform committee, however, lost confidence because it stretched its influence. The members made unilateral decisions on the fate of certain heavyweight politicians. It proposed that party head Moon Jae-in to run for election in a constituency in the traditionally conservative voting base of Busan although he announced he won’t run in next year’s election. It demanded that former leaders like Chung Se-kyun, Lee Hae-chan, Moon Hee-sang, Kim Han-gill and Ahn Cheol-soo run in constituencies that are difficult for liberal candidates to win. Because the opposition has lost five consecutive elections since its defeat in the 2012 presidential election, the committee believed the party needs fresh faces.

But one-way reforms didn’t succeed in the past. The predecessor of the Saenuri Party intentionally excluded members loyal to Park Geun-hye after she lost a presidential primary to Lee Myung-bak. The party never recovered from that internal power struggle. Forced reshuffles rarely work.

In principle, a politician should be able to run in any constituency he or she wants. It does not make sense to impose limitations on six particular politicians. It should be up to the individual politicians to decide where to run. The reform committee singled out Rep. Cho Kyung-tae as a trouble-maker after he described the approval of the reforms “collective madness.” If there are problems with his behavior, they should be dealt with by the party’s ethics committee. The reform committee is not authorized to demand punishments. The NPAD is the main opposition. It has a duty to act lawfully and logically.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 25, Page 34

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