A substandard debate againThe public eye has shifted to the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) now that the primary of the Democratic Party (DP) has ended in turmoil. But it raises a serious question about whether the PPP can be a formidable alternative to the DP wrangling over the primary results. The presidential candidates in the PPP primary have been shortlisted to four — former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, veteran lawmaker Hong Joon-pyo, former lawmaker Yoo Seung-min and former Jeju Governor Wong Hee-ryong.
The first of 10 rounds of television debate improved a bit from the previous debates. Still, the discussions were quite disappointing.
There were more embarrassing scenes than impressive ones on visions and policies. Yoon made himself a laughing stock by claiming that he had never opened a bank account for apartment subscription because he did not have a house. Yoo, during a debate asked which witch doctor Yoon sees. The tension between the two did not wane even after the debate ended.
Hong used vulgar language against his rival and first-time lawmakers critical of him, although he later removed the posts on Facebook. He accused Yoon of being a part of a criminal ring. Hong did not show the maturity befitting a second-time presidential candidate. Yoon and Hong exchanged a tense word game over who came first in a poll.
The odds for the PPP in the presidential race are not that bad given people’s higher anticipation for a change in the governing power. A recent poll by the Korean Society Opinion Institute showed 51.5 percent wanted a change of government, overwhelming 39.7 percent of people wishing for an extension of the existing power. The gap widened from 7.1 percentage points. A survey by Gallup Korea also showed more support for a PPP candidate than for a DP candidate.
But none of the candidates excel past Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung of the DP. That reflects a lack of appeal or competitiveness of the PPP candidates. They may think things could change if the final candidate is chosen. But that is just wishful thinking. There had been anticipation for a change in the governing power ahead of the 2012 presidential election. But conservative candidate Park Geun-hye nevertheless won. Competitiveness of a candidate as an individual comes first in the final race. PPP contestants must work harder to come up with vision and action plans as well as strategies to coordinate differences among them.