A stark warningIn a weekly Realmeter poll announced on Thursday, the approval rating of opposition United Future Party (UFP) surpassed that of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) for the first time since October 2016, when candlelight vigils began, which eventually led to the impeachment and removal of President Park Geun-hye for abuse of power and corruption. In the latest survey, 36.5 percent of the respondents supported the UFP while 33.4 percent backed the DP. Over the past four years, the DP has enjoyed an overwhelming lead over the UFP, as evidenced in its landslide victory in the April 15 parliamentary elections following earlier triumphs in the presidential and local elections.
However, only four months after the DP and its satellite Open Minjoo Party took 180 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, the DP has faced backlash from the voters due to the liberal administration’s domineering approach to state affairs, as clearly seen in its regulation-focused real estate policy, relentless push for prosecutorial reforms and unwillingness to get to the bottom of the suicide of Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon over a sexual harassment scandal. The stunning results of the poll should be seen as a judgement on a series of policy failures by the government and DP. We hope they sincerely reflect on what it means.
At the same time, the DP must question why a number of people in South and North Jeolla are turning their backs on it. The DP’s approval rating in Gwangju and Jeolla — its core support base — fell to 47.8 percent, a whopping 11.5 percentage point drop from the previous week. The nosedive can be attributed to colossal damage from devastating floods that hit the region. Yet such a sharp drop can easily lead to a worsening of public sentiment in the province.
President Moon’s approval rating (43.3 percent) is also outweighed by his disapproval rating (52.5 percent) and the gap is growing bigger. That can seriously hurt his ability to run the country. In their fourth years, other presidents suffered leadership crises. Moon must change his governing style and communicate with opposition parties.
On its part, the UFP should not be elated by the recent gains in their ratings — they are simply a windfall from the DP’s mistakes. Given the public’s poor evaluation of the opposition, the UFP must change itself too.
In a positive sign, the UFP announced a radically new set of policies including the introduction of a “basic income,” traditionally a liberal agenda, on Thursday. Yet it turned a blind eye to its messy nomination process ahead of last April’s elections. If the party repeats such a habit in the future, its rising approval ratings will lead to nowhere.