Unattractive squabbleEven after holding a closed-door meeting over whether to postpone the ruling Democratic Party (DP)’s race to elect its next presidential candidate, members of the Supreme Council were unable to reach a conclusion Tuesday. That followed an earlier failure by the same council on June 13. A DP spokesperson said the party decided to make a final conclusion after the council on Friday receives a plan on presidential campaigns from its election preparation committee. However, given a tense standoff between those who want to delay the date for picking the presidential candidate and those who want to keep the schedule as stipulated by the party constitution — 180 days before a presidential election — the wrangling over the timeline is not expected to subside easily.
In Tuesday’s Supreme Council meeting, Reps. Kim Yong-min and Back Hye-ryun — who are close to Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung, a frontrunner in polls — opposed a delay while Reps. Kang Byung-won and Kim Young-bae, who are loyalists of President Moon Jae-in, supported the postponement, citing a need to reconsider the date. Among presidential hopefuls in the DP, Governor Lee, Rep. Park Yong-jin and former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae oppose a delay, while former DP Chairman Lee Nak-yon, former Prime Minister Chung Sye-gyun and Rep. Lee Kwang-jae demand it. The disharmony reflects a sharp clash between the pro-Lee faction and the anti-Lee faction in the ruling party.
The pro-Lee group insists that the party cannot change the schedule, as there is no justification for the shift. But opponents desire to delay it by changing party rules so that the political event can be held briskly after the country overcomes the pandemic through aggressive vaccinations. Put simply, the pro-Lee group wants to hold the race while Lee enjoys a comfortable lead over other contenders. The anti-Lee group wants to buy time for their hopefuls to raise their popularity.
A war of nerves over fixing timetables for party races is nothing new. But the general public does not like it as the ruling party seems to be mired in an internal fight for power even after its crushing defeat in the April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan. The real estate measures the DP has churned out fell way short of the people’s expectations. Despite simmering public rage over former Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s double standards and hypocrisy, the radical Pro-Moon group in the DP still takes an overbearing stance on a myriad of issues. In the meantime, the opposition People Power Party (PPP) reshaped its old school image by electing a 36-year-old political rookie as its new leader. The DP must end all the confusion and conflict before it’s too late.