Lesson to be learnedThe opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) is finally split after former leader Ahn Cheol-soo on Sunday left the party, after merging with the trouble-ridden Democratic Party 21 months ago in a bid to reinvent the opposition.
The public wanted to see a strong, unified and competitive opposition ahead of the April 13 general election, but NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in and Ahn could not compromise. The opposition turned out to be a collection of factions incapable of addressing their own internal divisions, not to mention carrying out its responsibility as the main opposition. Ahn’s departure is a result of the growing public call for the separation of the two after their fight reached the point of no return.
Moon must take more responsibility for the crisis. He should have offered an exit for Ahn, but instead flatly rejected Ahn’s demand for a new party convention for innovation. Moon steadfastly ran the embattled party under the influence of pro-Roh Moo-hyun lawmakers.
The opposition has adhered to protecting their vested interests through ideological and factional battles, blinded by self-righteousness. They don’t care if 11,000 bills were scrapped due to their opposition to government-proposed bills throughout the 19th National Assembly, while turning a blind eye to their colleagues’ corruption, as they can easily grab more than 100 seats as long as their candidates run for elections under the banner of the NPAD. As a result, its public support falls short of 20 percent, while that for the ruling party is 40 percent.
The remaining 40 percent are independent, signaling a serious crisis of our party politics. The Ahn Cheol-soo syndrome was possible thanks to the public demand for someone who can fill the void. But Ahn also disappointed citizens because of his repeated withdrawals from Seoul mayoral and presidential elections in 2011 and 2012. His decision to merge with the Democratic Party dealt a critical blow to people’s resilient expectations for Ahn.
The public has sought a moderate reform party. Ahn must join forces with rational reform forces from both sides of the aisle. Instead of relying on a few big-mouthed hardliners, he must demonstrate a determination to pass livelihood-related bills no matter what. He also must differentiate with the NPAD through balanced policies on North Korea and the economy.
Ahn’s departure is a turning point for our democracy. The ruling Saenuri Party needs to seek a conservative path, Moon’s NPAD a liberal path, and Ahn’s new party a middle of the road. Without leadership, however, people will not forgive him. The Saenuri Party must not simply take advantage of the split in the opposition camp. We hope that it learns lessons from the breakup of the opposition.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 14, Page 34