Lee’s leadership test has begunRep. Lee Nak-yon, former prime minister, has been elected chairman of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) with 176 seats in the 300-member National Assembly. He has reinforced his footing as frontrunner in the race for the 2022 presidential election after getting majority support in surveys of DP delegates and the public. His leadership will be under the spotlight as his political gravity grows.
Underscoring the need to “relieve the deepening pain of ordinary citizens” amid a dramatic spike in new Covid-19 cases, Lee said, “I will do my best to end their pain as early as possible.” He has made five promises to the people, including winning the war against Covid-19, safeguarding people’s livelihoods, preparing for a post-coronavirus era, realizing “politics for unity” and accelerating innovation across the board.
We welcome his emphasis on “cooperation with the opposition while keeping principles” and on “co-governance for the country’s sake.” The public has been sick of the party’s overbearing ways after its landslide victory in the April 15 parliamentary elections, as clearly seen in its chairmanship of all 18 standing committees in the legislature. As a result, the approval rating of the DP was once lower than the opposition United Future Party (UFP). The DP and government must stop politics based on its friends-or-foes paradigm and open a new era for cooperation with opposition parties.
Lee is also expected to play a leading role in helping the government draw up policies based on pragmatism, not ideology. To do that, he must reform the party and declare an end to the combative — and biased — approaches of the DP. We hope he demonstrates a pragmatic leadership in discussing a second round of emergency relief grants, drafting a fourth supplementary budget and reducing the side effects of the government’s drastic real estate measures.
If Lee can successfully lead the DP for the next seven months until he announces his bid for president, he can solidify his political ground for the goal. Otherwise, his chairmanship will serve as a stumbling block to his ambition. It all depends on his skills to establish a horizontal and healthy relationship between the DP and Blue House.
Serving as the first prime minister in the Moon Jae-in administration, Lee built chemistry with the president. Shortly after his election as DP chairman on Saturday, Moon gave him a phone call and congratulated him on his victory.
But Lee should take a step further away. The Blue House has been under fire for taking a domineering approach to national governance. Lee must put the brakes on it when the Blue House goes overboard. Only then can the DP achieve cooperation with the UFP.