Lack of policy debatesGeneral elections are a national event for policy competitions among political parties. In the previous legislative election four years ago, welfare was the biggest issue. After the opposition Democratic Party came up with the idea of universal welfare - including free medical services on top of free school meals - the ruling Saenuri Party led by then-Chairwoman Park Geun-hye countered with welfare services that could meet individual needs. The contest over welfare services had a huge impact on the 2012 presidential election as well.
But such policy competitions have vanished ahead of the April 13 general election. Despite such urgent issues as labor reform and job creation amid our alarming economic slowdown and despite Kim Chong-in - a self-proclaimed fighter for “economic democratization” - taking the helm of the embattled main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, debates on economic policies disappeared. Also, despite North Korea threatening a nuclear missile attack and the deepening conflict between the U.S. and China over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in South Korea, we don’t see much discussion in the political realm.
Jobs, housing, economic polarization and nuclear issues are all critical to our citizen’s lives. And yet, both the ruling and opposition parties are engrossed in a dirty war over nomination and bent on enlarging their political territory through strategic electoral arrangement.
Belatedly, both camps have begun to announce their campaign strategies. Saenuri Party offered commitments to “add more jobs, multiply fairness, and divide care,” while the Minjoo Party hammered out its “777 Plan” to raise the share of household income against gross national income, for instance, to the 70 percent range. The minor opposition People’s Party hurriedly concocted three bills aimed at achieving fair growth. Could those attract voters’ attention? Hardly. For campaign promises to draw public support, they must go through debate.
But Saenuri’s campaign promises ended up nowhere at the Supreme Committee sharply divided between pro-Park Geun-hye faction and the rest. The Minjoo’s commitments also were pushed aside?. Splinter Party Co-chairman Ahn Cheol-soo criticized the call for strategic coalition with the opposition but stopped short of presenting alternatives.
Even though official policy debates are in waiting, that’s not enough. We urge the three party leaders to have a heated debate on the issues. If they don’t have effective ideas to tackle them, voters have nothing to expect from them.
JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 7, Page 34