Ending factionalismThe ruling Saenuri Party has dithered in awarding eligibility for Rep. Yoo Seong-min — former floor leader and ally of President Park Geun-hye, though now dubbed a political betrayer — to run in the April 13 general election, even as the Thursday deadline for registration of candidates neared.
The hesitance makes obvious to Yoo the Saenuri Party’s ultimatum: don’t run in the election, or leave the party. While waging a war of nerves with the intransigent Yoo, the ruling party is without a candidate to fill Yoo’s constituency in the conservative party’s district in Daegu.
The ruling party was more or less renouncing its responsibility to field players for the election in fear of angering the president, who vehemently shunned Yoo for going against her will, if the party nominates him. It could, at the same time, risk public backlash by outright snubbing Yoo. The public has already signaled its disapproval of the ruling party’s immature political vendetta, which has included denying nominations to many of its current lawmakers who have been disloyal or disrespectful to the president.
In Daegu, just three of the six candidates granted nominations by the review committee for being “loyal” to the president were approved by party members in the region. In Seocho A District in southern Seoul, a traditional conservative party stronghold, Lee Hye-hoon, an ally of the former floor leader Yoo, beat Cho Yoon-sun — a former senior secretary for political affairs to the president — in the constituency primary. Cho was courted by Jin Young — a former health minister who joined the rival Minjoo Party of Korea after being denied a party nomination due to a fallout with President Park — but she turned down the offer, possibly fearing being victimized by brewing anti-Park sentiment. Loyalists of the president brought the fall upon themselves. Instead of vying with political capability, they merely rode through on presidential favor. But the ruling party leadership has learned nothing and pushed ahead to oust Yoo.
The ruling party is daring to punish anyone that goes against the will of the president even at the risk of losing key legislative seats. It remains unconcerned even though its nomination process has been criticized as brutal and unjust. The Saenuri Party was once confident in winning 180 seats out of the 300-member legislature in the general election. But now it may lose the majority position. The party must campaign to win the hearts of voters, not the president, if it still wants to win the election.