A party in deep trouble

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A party in deep trouble

The fulminating conflict within the ruling Saenuri Party between members staunchly loyal to President Park Geun-hye and the not-so-loyal over nominations ahead of next month’s general election has evolved into an out-and-out showdown jeopardizing the party’s very viability — and its prospects for the election.

In an act of revolt, Saenuri Party head Kim Moo-sung vetoed five candidates approved by a nomination committee dominated by loyalists of the president. The same committee denied candidacies to people deemed disrespectful or disobedient to the president. Many shunned lawmakers left the ruling party to run independently in their constituencies in next month’s election. Kim declared the party would not field any candidates in the five constituencies and then departed for Busan without rubber-stamping the nominations. He claimed he would stay there until the Friday deadline for candidate registration, which would disqualify the five candidates from running in the election.
Such unprecedented strife could lead to lawsuits by the nominated candidates.

From the start, a messy end was foreseeable. The committee chaired by Rep. Lee Han-koo, a confidante of the president, dropped lawmakers close to Yoo Seong-min, the former floor leader whom the president vehemently branded a betrayer for going against her will, and those who had been serving under former President Lee Myung-bak. The committee made it clear the party would field candidates based on loyalty to the president and strip the disloyal of any chance to run.

The five constituencies pinpointed by Kim were the most controversial choices. The committee actually overlooked figures on who was ahead in local polls and gave nominations to less popular figures. The committee also withheld a nomination for Yoo until he gave up and left the party.

Kim has basically declared a showdown with the president and her followers. The ruling party has been losing public favor as a result of such an ugly internal power struggle. It will be without a majority after the election if the shunned lawmakers win their races as independents and if its candidates lose to rivals due to public disgust. Governance of the nation will lose steam without majority support from the ruling party at a time when uncertainties are mounting on the economic and security fronts. If the ruling party does not want to bring doom upon itself, it must get its house in order.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 25, Page 34

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