Conservatives in disarrayThirteen lawmakers of the Bareun Party, a spinoff from the former ruling Saenuri Party before the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, deserted their ship Tuesday as its presidential candidate shows little improvement in approval ratings in the final week of the race to return to their old party, now renamed the Liberty Korea Party. The Bareun Party now has 19 lawmakers, losing its status as a negotiation bloc, which requires 20. The defectors claimed that they were uniting under the old conservative front fielding die-hard conservative politician Hong Joon-pyo, whose ratings in polls are closing in on those of Ahn Cheol-soo, although neither is expected to stop Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic Party from winning the election. The party previously had urged the centrist and conservative fronts to rally behind Ahn, but Bareun Party candidate Yoo Seong-min refused to bow out.
The defectors’ choice may be a realistic one, given calls from conservative voters for a single conservative candidate. Political parties exist to win elections and govern. Realistic compromise is necessary in the political world. Sticking to idealistic values and principles often is not the best way to politick.
Still, the defectors from the Bareun Party command little respect. They rudely asked their own candidate — fairly elected in a primary — to step aside because he was doing poorly in the polls, which goes against the basic rules of democracy. Yoo, in fact, has been getting positive reviews of his performance in presidential debates. It is both uncivil and cowardly to dump all the blame on Yoo and jump ship at the last minute. The same members had vowed to set the party on a new path for conservative values.
The party was founded by anti-Park forces in the Saenuri Party. After bolting from the party, its members joined forces with the liberal camp to impeach Park. The party they left has not changed much. Hong appeals to voters loyal to the disgraced president. The returnees are hoping for better chances in mayoral and gubernatorial elections next year and the general election the following year.
The fall of the conservatives poses a danger to Korean politics. The conservative should concentrate on reviving a reasonable conservative path instead of going back to the old ways. The Bareun Party must stand tough regardless of its many challenges. It must be able to convince voters that it can provide an alternative voice. It must stick to its founding principles and focus on rebuilding a path for conservatives to survive in the nasty Korean political world.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 3, Page 26