A nonsensical bid for party chairmanship

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A nonsensical bid for party chairmanship

Rep. Lee Jae-myung, the former presidential candidate from the Democratic Party (DP), on Monday declared his bid for the chairmanship of the embattled party that lost in the March 9 presidential election. His running in the primary slated for August 28 was already anticipated when he ran for a legislative seat for a district in Incheon in a by-election on June 1 less than three months after his defeat in the presidential election. Such a bold rush to become head of a political party just a few months after his election loss is unprecedented.

Lee should have taken responsibility for the DP’s defeat in the June 1 local elections, too, as he headed the party’s campaign at that time. Nonetheless, Lee easily won the by-election held in a district — a home turf of the DP — which has nothing to do with Seongnam city where he had served as mayor for eight years. Lee now wants to take the helm of the party after grabbing a legitimate defense shield against a plethora of accusations against him. (Once elected as a lawmaker, he or she can enjoy the privilege of no arrest without approval by the 300-member National Assembly where the DP is currently a supermajority.)

Of course, Lee is free to run for party chairmanship. Given his approval rating above 60 percent among DP members, Lee’s dominant position will not be swayed easily. Nevertheless, all the allegations against him — suspicious development projects in Daejang-dong and Baekhyeon-dong in Seongnam city, drawing murky donations for the city’s football club in return for favors for private companies, and his wife’s illegal use of his corporate card — will certainly pose serious risks to the DP soon.

Lee repeatedly admitted to his responsibility for election defeats. But instead of having the time to reflect on what he did, Lee has decided to enter the race for party head. We hope he does not brush off criticism that he will end up helping President Yoon Suk-yeol and his People Power Party (PPP).

A think tank under the DP singled out a “lack of effort to innovate the party” as the primary reason for its crushing defeat in the local elections. But the party is still bent on gathering support from hardliners in the party based on fandom politics. If Lee is elected chairman of the DP under such circumstances, it will fuel an ongoing crisis after two elections defeats.

Holding 169 seats in the legislature, the DP must take responsibility for people’s livelihoods. But it is engrossed in a fierce internal battle among factions to get nominations for the 2024 parliamentary elections. Unless the party shows vision to lead the country amid deepening uncertainties at home and abroad, it can perish in the elections two years from now.
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