Ending mighty presidential powerWith the March 9 presidential election just 16 days away — and only 10 days left before preliminary voting on March 4 and 5 — this election is rife with all kinds of scandals involving presidential candidates and their family. We have never seen such a presidential election. With the ideological divide reaching a peak, exchanges of mud-slinging between candidates are endless. Leaders in academia and political circles are denouncing candidates and their parties for trying to fuel conflict rather than unifying the people.
In a forum on Monday, more than 10 people — including former prime minister Lee Hong-koo, former National Assembly speaker Choi Won-ki and Korea University emeritus professor Choi Jang-jip — expressed deep concerns about the adverse effects of such an election. In presidential elections, verifying facts and scrutinizing the morality of candidates are essential. But we’ve seen a flood of negative attacks and relentless exposures of opponents’ dirt through the media. The leaders called for a clear demonstration of vision and ability to tackle a plethora of challenges at home and abroad from presidential candidates.
After candidates with the least-ever favorability ratings indulged in this mud fight, senior members of our society worry about the possibility of public anxiety deepening after the election. Due to a lack of candidates with overwhelming support from the voters — and because of sharp confrontation between the liberals and the conservatives — whoever wins the election will have trouble running the government smoothly. The ideological division will become deeper, as local elections will be held in three months followed by the next parliamentary elections in 2024.
To avert catastrophe, a new president and administration must chart a new path toward national integration. Given all the fatigue accumulated from the past, top priority should be placed on easing social, political, regional and gender conflicts across the board. Without taking a farsighted approach to seek cooperation from the opposition, a new president cannot take any meaningful step further.
The elders urged a new president to abandon the mighty power of the past unless it is backed by the Constitution. To end such omnipotent presidential power, he must commit to a Constitutional amendment to share his power with the legislature, government ministers and local governments in a balanced way. If a Constitutional revision is too difficult, a new president must at least end the Blue House-centered governance system and ensure the independence of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, not to mention respecting recommendations by a prime minister to recruit government ministers. A new president should heed such advice for the sake of this country.