Now comes the hard part

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Now comes the hard part

The National Assembly has been reshaped into a hung parliament for the first time in 16 years with a surprise upset by the Minjoo Party and People’s Party in Wednesday’s election. The two opposition camps should deliberate hard on the meaning of the election outcome before the Minjoo Party celebrates its feat of becoming the largest party in the 300-member legislature. The People’s Party is celebrating its sudden rise to potentially holding the swing vote, as there is scant difference between the number of seats held by the two largest parties.

Voters sent a clear message through an exercise of their democratic rights. They announced their discontent with the rigid and snobbish Park Geun-hye administration and self-serving politicians. Young people are frustrated over jobs, the middle class is being forced to move out of the capital due to sky-high rents, and middle-aged salary earners are pressured to retire early. They turned to the opposition candidates. In truth, the Minjoo Party hasn’t been much help on the economic front. It opposed the economic agenda of the government and ruling party. It was defeated in all four by-elections held under the incumbent government. It recruited Kim Chong-in, the architect of President Park Geun-hye’s economic platform during her presidential campaign, and he helped the party secure the largest number of seats. Voters were moved by the Minjoo Party’s move to the center and its resolute stance against North Korean provocations.

The splinter People’s Party actually outpaced the Minjoo Party in one way, obtaining as many proportional representative seats with 13. The party seeking ideology-free centrism must have drawn conservative votes as well as liberal ones. Its slogan of being liberal on the economy and conservative on security issues won votes from across the board.

Even if the Saenuri Party woos back independent candidates, it can’t secure a majority. None of the government’s proposals can pass without the support of liberals. The liberals can dominate not only the committee chair seats but also the assembly speaker position. They now have equal rank in state affairs with the administration. The two must share responsibility to revive the economy and unite society.

There are many bills on labor reform and the service sector that require approval immediately. The liberals must work with the ruling party to retool them. If the liberals don’t show effectiveness, they could be on the receiving end of voters’ wrath in the next presidential election.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 15, Page 30
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