The Democratic Party needs soul searching

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The Democratic Party needs soul searching

The Democratic Party (DP) faced a crushing defeat in the local elections on June 1. Just four years ago, the DP had swept 14 out of 17 seats for heads of large municipal governments and cities, but this time it only won 12 seats. Compared to its narrow defeat by 0.73 percentage points in the May 9 presidential election, the party took a dive even further. The critical defeat reflects a strong backlash from a multitude of voters who were utterly disappointed by the liberal party’s lopsided legislative moves — as perfectly exemplified by its railroading of two revisions aimed at depriving the prosecution of its investigative authority once and for all — without any sense of self-reflection.

Moreover, the DP’s former presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung, who also served as chair of the party’s campaign, triggered criticism by running for a legislative seat in Incheon city in a by-election on Wednesday without taking any responsibility for his defeat in the presidential election last month. Song Young-gil, former head of the DP, is no exception. He ran for Seoul mayor despite strong opposition from the party and lost. Park Ji-hyun, interim co-chair of the DP, had to apologize for her legitimate demand for the retreat of former hard-line democracy fighters in the party. If such hawkish — and ideology-based — politicians remain in the DP, the liberal party cannot change public sentiment increasingly hostile toward them.

The DP has disbanded the emergency committee of the party after holding it accountable for the crushing defeat in Wednesday’s local elections. However, one cannot see any attempt to change the obstinate party in a fundamental way. The DP even plans to advance its national convention slated for August in order to give Lee — the loser in the presidential election and the figure who should take responsibility for the party’s overwhelming defeat in the local elections more than any one else — a chance to take the helm of the embattled party without any effort to find the reasons for the party’s defeats.

What the DP needs most is not a national convention but deep soul-searching to help reinvent the mammoth party holding 167 seats in the 300-member National Assembly. The party must reshape it for its own sake instead of adhering to self-interest. Lee and other unyielding members of the DP must retreat after taking responsibility for the loss in the two elections and have the time for self-reflection.

At the same time, the DP must hand over its chairmanship of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee to the PPP as promised if the majority party really wants a smooth operation of the legislature after the launch last month of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration. Otherwise, it will become a minority party after parliamentary elections two years later.
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