Turning over a new leafThe main opposition United Future Party (UFP) was wiped out in the latest election. The conservative party behind the founding and industrialization of the country had been the primary pillar in modern Korean politics either as the ruling or main opposition party. It had setbacks before, but until now maintained a comfortable presence in the National Assembly to keep power in check.
In last week’s election, it won a mere 100 seats in the 300-seat Assembly. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) can unilaterally pass any bills it wants to. The conservative front has been defeated in all four recent elections, including the parliamentary elections four years ago, the presidential election in 2017 and local elections in 2018.
This parliamentary election should have been a challenge for the ruling party in the middle of a presidential term. But the liberals dominate the central government, judiciary and local governments except for in Daegu and North Gyeongsang. Now that the ruling party has secured 180 seats in the legislature, the separation of powers is at risk.
The conservative party has itself to blame for the catastrophe. Even after former President Park Geun-hye was impeached, there was no serious self-reflection. None from the executive level have stepped down. The pro-Park group attacked the others as betrayers. Even the non-Park faction was forever wrangling. They opposed every government policy from economics to security, but failed to lay out any alternatives. Their campaign strategy was disastrous. Nominations were a mess and candidates made matters worse through heedless and scandalous comments. At the end of the day, it only managed to defend the traditional conservative vote base in North and South Gyeongsang and the rich Gangnam District in southern Seoul.
The UFP must be reborn. Its satellite party won 19 proportional representation seats, two more than the satellite party for the DP. It also stole back seats in Busan and South Gyeongsang. When including the seats of its satellite party and former members who ran independently, the conservatives can control about 107 votes.
The UFP must give up all of its vested rights and start anew. It must strongly protest the DP’s unilateral decisions on dividing investigation power between the prosecution and the police and appointment of the head of a new anticorruption agency while cooperating with issues concerning livelihoods such as coronavirus aid. Since all of its heavyweights, including chief Hwang Kyo-ahn, have been defeated, the UFP has no other choice but to start from scratch. It must recruit a fresh leadership and seek to regain confidence through good policies on growth, welfare, security and peace. The conservative front can no longer rely on votes from older people. The conservatives must win the hearts of the young.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 17, Page 30