The right lessonsAfter the landslide victory of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) over opposition parties in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections, the DP has enough seats to pass the so-called fast-track legislation bill. Its new strength — 163 seats for constituencies plus 17 proportional representative seats in the 300-seat National Assembly — will allow the party to pass any bills, in fact, except for a Constitutional amendment. The DP has achieved an unprecedented feat by winning four national elections in a row: the 2016 legislative elections, the 2017 presidential by-election and the 2018 local elections.
Many political analysts attribute the DP’s success to the weakness of the main opposition United Future Party (UFP) and the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. They say repeated policy mistakes were overshadowed by the Moon Jae-in administration’s success in tackling the Covid-19 outbreak. Many voters were unhappy with the government for a slew of policy flops before the outbreak.
The government’s performance over the last three years gets mixed appraisals. The government pressed ahead with many unrealistic policies on the economic, political and security fronts. As the Blue House kept a strong grip on the administration, controversy continued over its suspicious appointments based on ideology and nominees’ personal affiliation with Moon. Yet the Blue House turned deaf ears to disgruntlement and brushed it off as an attempt to shake the government.
The government’s ability to lead the nation faces a real test. If it believes this victory is public approval of its domineering style, it will make a major mistake. Despite all the jubilation it felt after winning a majority in parliamentary elections in 2004, the ruling Uri Party perished soon afterward because of its legislative overreach and internal conflicts.
The nation is on a cliff’s edge. People’s livelihoods are getting worse, our young generation is frustrated with a lack of jobs, and our birthrate and suicide rates are the highest ever. North Korea’s missile threats continue. The regional and ideological divisions revealed in the election will not be narrowed soon. The ruling party must reflect what it has done so far and go back to the beginning.
Power translates into responsibility. The government must avoid arrogance. Instead of showing off its new-found strength, it must cooperate with opposition parties. If it only listens to what it wants to, it cannot forge a new future for the people. Its decisive victory does not necessarily mean approval for its arrogance in the past. It must take a new path toward cooperation and harmony.