A farce in the making
Senior lawmaker Kim Han-gill stepped down as chairman of the campaign committee of the splinter opposition People’s Party on Friday due to a deep disagreement with co-chair Ahn Cheol-soo over a merger or electoral alliance with the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea ahead of the April 13 general election. Five-term legislator Chun Jung-bae also refused to play his role as co-chair of the party after hinting at the possibility of a “grave decision.” The People’s Party, led by Ahn, a software mogul-turned-politician and a failed presidential contender, faces a colossal crisis only 40 days after its founding in February. The party could split.
With such internal discord, the party has been suffering a precipitous fall in approval ratings. Ahn must take primary responsibility after the Minjoo Party’s interim leader, Kim Chong-in, proposed a merger. Ahn failed to establish a fresh third party based on a vision and his leadership. Not a few party members feel sympathy for the argument that the party must unite with the main opposition to defeat the behemoth Saenuri Party in this election.
Nevertheless, it would be a sheer farce for politicians to repeat the ugly practice of ditching a party and then establishing an electoral alliance with that very party. Such basic divisions within the opposition camp would lead to a crushing defeat in the election. If the People’s Party opts to merge with the main opposition even before its platforms can be judged by the public, that is a denial of any political seriousness. Kim Han-gill should not have defected from the Minjoo Party and joined with Ahn to set up the party.
Kim, the campaign committee chairman, co-founded the New Politics Democratic Union with Ahn ahead of the 2014 municipal elections. And when he left the Minjoo Party last month, he proclaimed he would help a strong third party make a successful debut in a political terrain long dominated by two parties. But Kim’s latest call for merging with the Minjoo Party in the name of election victory is the same as returning to the very party he left after denouncing it for widespread corruption, especially among the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction.
If the opposition camp suffers such a defeat in April that it cannot keep the government in check, that is not desirable for the people. Opposition parties face neck-and-neck races with the ruling party in Seoul and other metropolitan areas. No matter how urgent, they must uphold their principles. Whether it be a merger or solidarity, they must do it in a way that gains public approval. That is the only way to get votes.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 12, Page 30