[Editorial] An inevitable offshoot of arrogance

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[Editorial] An inevitable offshoot of arrogance

The Democratic Party (DP) is in shock and confusion after Chairman Lee Jae-myung barely avoided an arrest by the prosecution for further questioning on a plethora of suspicions from his days as Seongnam major. The prosecution’s request for an arrest warrant for Lee was narrowly voted down on Monday in the National Assembly. But a group of loyalists to Lee kick-started a relentless campaign online to attack DP lawmakers who voted for his arrest. Some even distributed a list of their names and phone numbers to incite others to send texts to the lawmakers who approved his arrest.

Polls conducted before the voting showed little sympathy for the party’s methodical definition of the prosecution’s investigation of Lee as “political oppression.” More people wanted Lee to be arrested than not. Dumbfounding is the DP hard-liners’ stigmatization of those lawmakers as “betrayers.” The DP’s push to purge them only disgraces the reputation of the liberal party as a champion of democratic values.

The breakaway of scores of DP lawmakers from Lee were brought about by Lee himself. In the last parliamentary elections in 2020, the DP swept 180 seats in the 300-member legislature after establishing its satellite parties. President Moon Jae-in’s high approval rating at 45 percent to the last minute also helped the DP grab a landslide victory in the election.

In the following presidential election in 2022, the DP lost to the PPP that recruited Yoon Suk Yeol, a prosecutor general under the Moon administration. If the DP is a mature party, it should have thoroughly analyzed reasons for the defeat and have had a self-reflection.

But the party didn’t. It was busy cheering Lee’s narrow defeat on a 0.73 percent margin against Yoon. Just two months after the defeat, Lee ran in a by-election in a pro-DP district and won. He went on to be elected chairman of the party now holding 169 seats. That was a stark departure from the tradition of presidential candidates having the time for self-introspection when they lost in elections.

After Lee took the helm of the embattled party, the DP was engrossed in defending its boss from a number of his judicial risks. The votes some thirty DP legislators cast Monday was a stern warning to Lee and his faction adamant to reform and innovation. It was also a struggle for lawmakers not loyal to Lee to survive on their own and to help the DP stay afloat.

Lee must squarely face reality and reflect on what he has done so far. We hope he finds a clue to the dramatic revolt against him and come up with a wise political decision so that he can take responsibility for all the chaos sweeping the party. The ball is in Lee’s court now.
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