No more satellite parties

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No more satellite parties

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) announced it was entering into discussions for a merger with the splinter minority Open Democratic Party. The merger process is expected to be expedited, ending the last abnormal satellite party’s presence in the National Assembly. Other satellite parties merged with the opposition People Power Party (PPP) and the DP shortly after last year’s April 15 parliamentary elections.

One of the most disgraceful events in modern Korean politics was the DP’s railroading through of an amendment to the Public Office Election Act ahead of the last parliamentary elections. The expanded proportional system helped minority parties get more legislative seats.

Despite its ostensible design to enhance the political party system in Korea, though, satellite parties were a result of the DP’s tit-for-tat bargaining with minority parties to get their cooperation in passing a law to create a new investigative body on high-ranking government officials. The negotiations excluded the PPP and broke the long-standing tradition of bipartisanship on election laws.

A by-product was the creation of satellite parties. The PPP vowed to create a satellite party of its own to protest the DP’s unilateral move to fix the election law. The DP warned that the PPP could face a strong backlash if it created a satellite party. But after the DP’s ratings fell, the DP changed its position and created its own satellite parties.

Those satellite parties should never have been born. They were a blight on a true democracy. DP presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung proposed to legislate a bill banning the creation of such satellite parties. He said the PPP had created a satellite party to add more proportional seats but that the DP also shares the shame. Lee’s concession reflects his desperation to catch up with PPP presidential candidate Yoon Seok-youl.

As satellite parties undermine democratic politics, they should not be created ahead of the next parliamentary elections in 2024. The rival parties must come to a reform outline through the political reform committee that has been established. The outline must be one that can be agreed to by whomever becomes the ruling or opposition party and correct the biggest folly of the current National Assembly.
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