No time for mud fightPeople’s Party Co-chairman Ahn Cheol-soo rejected the idea of merging his splinter opposition party with the Minjoo Party of Korea. The proposal was made by the Minjoo Party’s interim leader Kim Chong-in. Ahn, a software-mogul-turned-politician and failed presidential contender, lambasted Kim by saying that his proposal is nothing but a threat and a cowardly political maneuver to cajole him into joining forces to win the April 13 general election over the ruling Saenuri Party.
Ahn’s suspicions are entirely understandable. Kim has been negative to a strategic electoral arrangement to field single liberal candidates in certain districts. Kim went so far as to attack Ahn, saying he lacks sincerity. Moreover, there is hardly enough time for negotiations for such an important merger, as only about 40 days are left before the general election. Ahn could have interpreted Kim’s merger proposal as an intention to take the lead in the campaign after fueling schisms in his new party.
Nevertheless, discussions on unifying the opposition camp seem unavoidable. The possibility of opposition parties snatching victory in Seoul and Gyeonggi province is very low in neck-and-neck races in the region. Also, after the number of seats sharply increased in Seoul and other metropolitan areas, opposition supporters increasingly need an electoral alliance strategy. In fact, nearly every election in the past saw a move among the opposition camp to field single candidates for strategic reasons.
The problem is whether such a move can overcome some principles. Minjoo Party’s interim leader Kim claims that many lawmakers left the party due to friction with the leadership of former chairman Moon Jae-in. Their reason for leaving has disappeared after Moon stepped down as chairman.
Opposition parties are increasingly attacking each other. If they keep it up, it will prevent the opposition from expanding its territory and deepen political hatred among its supporters. That will lead to a crushing defeat in the election. If both opposition parties want good results, they must demonstrate sincerity to the public. Political mud fights only help the ruling party.
Despite Ahn’s fury, discussions about how to cooperate will likely make progress. But first, the main opposition party must present powerful reasons for the merger. The People’s Party must look back on its past pledges and promises if a majority really want the merger. That’s new politics.
JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 4, Page 30