A long way to goThe latest fiasco surrounding what was supposed to be an event declaring the People Power Party’s (PPP) fair competition promise ahead of the primary race for its presidential candidacy has exposed the limitation of the main opposition party with just six months left until the election. The head of the party election commission offered to resign just before the event and four primary candidates did not even show up in protest of his competition rules. Critics of former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, frontrunner in the PPP, are demanding his withdrawal from the primary over allegations of power abuse during his term as the top prosecutor.
PPP head Lee Jun-seok recently said there were some people who still think replacing the governing power could be easy due to the strong public desire. But that miscalculation also appears to apply to the PPP leadership and candidates. The party must not think it is guaranteed to win the presidential election no matter how poorly it performs in its primary race.
The PPP’s Election Management Commissioner Chung Hong-won withdrew his resignation at the last minute at the persuasion of PPP Chairman Lee, but he still remains disapproving of the party leadership and presidential candidates for ignoring the party’s election rules.
Conflict over election rules is inevitable. The heated dispute over the primary race rules also occurred during the race between presidential candidates Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye in 2007. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) also clashed over its electoral vote-based primary rules, although the DP had less conflict than the PPP.
But the PPP’s conflict over the upcoming primary is more serious since the fissures showed even before the race has begun. Disputes could rise over the questioning themes, methodology of the polls and debate format. The party leadership’s ability to coordinate and mediate the differences is lacking. PPP head Lee must be a balanced referee, and yet he was stoking the conflict.
Even as the authority in designing the primary rules lies with the election management commission, Lee allowed a preparatory committee to adopt the provision of allowing nonparty members to choose a candidate. Hong Joon-pyo and Yoo Seung-min vehemently protested the change to the rules even before the primary race kicks off.
The players even demanded Election Management Commission Chairman Chung resign from the office he’s just been seated in. Threatening to boycott the primary cannot help the conservative party at all. Yoon should be held accountable for the internal conflict, too. His camp had clashed with the election preparatory committee over the rules and drew conflict with other contestants. The party’s conflict stands in contrast with the DP, which overcame candidates’ earlier disagreements and is proceeding smoothly in the party race.