Paving the way for cooperative politics

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Paving the way for cooperative politics

Former presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung has been elected head of the Democratic Party (DP). His victory had been widely anticipated from the beginning. Calls for Lee taking responsibility for a series of defeats of the opposition — including in the March 9 presidential election and the June 1 local elections — were muffled by die-hard loyalists of Lee, former Gyeonggi governor. Lee will be spearheading the liberal party with overwhelming 169 seats in the 300-member legislature over the next two years. He must show leadership in political reform to keep the sitting power in check and at the same time cooperate with the governing People Power Party (PPP) for national interests.

Lee also must cope with multiple criminal charges from his alleged involvement in the Daejang-dong and Baekhyun-dong development scandals, illegal fund-raising for Seongnam FC, abuse of his corporate card and pressuring a private company to pay his lawyer fee in a case involving his violation of the election law. The prosecution’s investigations are already in progress for some cases. Lee could lose the chairmanship if he is indicted, as the party Constitution stipulates. But if the party deems the investigations “political suppression” of the opposition party, his chairmanship can be saved under a new provision added shortly before the party’s national convention on Sunday. The revision was re-motioned after the first vote was turned down.

The move raised criticism for preemptive protection of Lee. Given deepening public skepticism, Lee must prove that he has not ascended to chairmanship to avoid criminal charges. As a new party leader, he also must depart with his signature fandom politics based on core supporters and sensational politics.

Lee is heading the majority opposition party when bipartisanship is urgently needed to help the economy struggling with the pains of Covid-19 and volatile external conditions. Although the DP should keep the government and ruling power in check, it must cooperate with the PPP to help ease public livelihoods hardened by alarmingly high inflation and interest rates and the strong U.S. dollar.

Another concern is that new members of the Supreme Council of the DP are also hardline. That will likely worsen relations with the PPP. As the legislature is also responsible for state affairs, the DP must cooperate with the PPP and government when necessary. Shortly after his election as head of the DP, Lee called for a meeting with President Yoon most likely to show off his new stature as head of the majority party. Earlier, the president and leaders of the PPP and DP discussed the establishment of a consultative body between senior members of the parties. DP Chairman Lee must pave the way for cooperative politics.
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