Stability over checks

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Stability over checks

Korean voters who chose to replace the five-year presidential power in March have also opted to change the majority in municipal governments and councils through the local elections on Wednesday. The People Power Party (PPP) won by a narrow margin of 0.73 percentage points in the March 9 presidential election. In the local elections, however, the PPP gained a clear-cut victory.

The PPP secured 12 out of 17 gubernatorial and large mayoral titles, compared with its pitiful two wins in the local elections four years ago. The party has extended a winning streak since the by-election last year after its crushing defeats from 2016 to 2020.

Voters have decided to back the new Yoon Suk-yeol government rather than checking it. “If the presidential election was the first round in the contest for a change in the governing power, the local elections were a second round,” said Kwon Seong-dong, PPP floor leader.

President Yoon may have sighed a relief after the controversy over his hasty relocation of the presidential office and stumbles in appointments for top positions in his government. But the PPP should not become overly confident. Many of Democratic Party (DP) supporters are believed to have decided not to vote this time due to their frustration about DP candidates. Public sentiment could change upon the performance of the new government.

The PPP accepted criticism over appointments and acted out its promise for unity by attending the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement memorial service. But it must continue with efforts for cooperation as the DP remains a majority in the legislature.

The DP has been humbled to the state of 10 years ago primarily because of its poor performance. The party comforted itself for its narrow defeat in the past presidential election instead of self-reflection. Shortly after losing the election, Lee Jae-myung dared to run for a legislative seat representing a district in Incheon. That’s not all. The DP pushed forward controversial bills to strip the prosecution of its investigative authority once and for all and entirely ignored its young leader’s plea for reform and retreat of the old school. Key candidates also stoked unnecessary controversy by pledging to relocate Gimpo Airport. It must painstakingly reform itself and restrain from domineering the legislature.

Both of the rivaling parties must try to win back public confidence for two years until the next parliamentary election in 2024. They must contest on future vision and address overdue issues of pension reforms, education, welfare, labor, and corporate regulations.

The campaign over local elections looked more of an extension of the presidential election. That’s not good. The election system on education superintendents also needs to be improved because the race has turned more political.
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