A hopeless partyJust a day before the Liberty Korea Party’s (LKP) national convention to pick its new leader on Wednesday, the mood is not at all festive. Members of the conservative party are increasingly concerned about the future of the main opposition. Above all, the low participation of party members who have the right to vote in the race for chairmanship testifies to the grim reality facing the party.
Turnout of early voters stood at 24.6 percent last weekend, even lower than the 25.2 percent the party showed at the national convention on July 3, 2017, which occurred shortly after the National Assembly’s impeachment of President Park Geun-hye and her dramatic fall from grace after the Constitutional Court ruled to oust her from presidency on charges of power abuse and corruption. At the time, the LKP was teetering on the brink of collapse as a result of her impeachment coupled with the party’s crushing defeat in a by-election to pick a new president. As such, that voter turnout is even lower than in the previous conventions held shortly after the presidential impeachment clearly shows how frustrated party members are with the party.
The results of Saturday’s mobile ballots, which sought to pick a new leader, are no exception. Despite a large increase in the number of individuals applying for mobile voting — to 350,000 from 210,000 two years ago — only 20.6 percent of them took part in the mobile vote, which is not so different from 2017’s 20.9 percent. Political analysts attribute even the minimal increase in voter turnout to a massive application for electronic voting by the so-called Taegukgi Troops — a far-right wing of the conservative party — to help save the party at crisis.
The primary responsibility for the lower turnout lies with the candidates. They have been engrossed in regressive campaigns, as seen in their heated competitions in the past — including the May 18 democracy movement in Gwangju and the impeachment of President Park, in particular — to earn more support from conservative voters instead of presenting farsighted visions for a party in crisis. There was no candidate who came up with bold blueprints to safeguard the strength of conservative values to lead the nation. They failed to implant hopes into the hearts of the voters.
The more the party held speech and debate sessions, the bigger the gap with public perception becomes. Some party members even raised doubts on the identity of the LKP, as seen in their branding of the party as “simply an opposition, not a conservative party.” We hope the party learns lessons from the depressing race whoever wins.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 26, Page 30