Land­slide win gives boost to Moon

NK peace ap­proach to gain mo­men­tum

The Korea Times - - ELECTIONS - By Kim Rahn rah­nita@ko­re­

The over­whelm­ing vic­tory of the rul­ing Demo­cratic Party of Korea (DPK) in the lo­cal elec­tions shows high pub­lic sup­port and ap­proval for the Moon Jae-in ad­min­is­tra­tion, es­pe­cially amid the on­go­ing rec­on­cil­ia­tory mood with North Korea which eclipsed other po­lit­i­cal is­sues.

With the vic­tory, Moon’s re­form drives and peace over­tures are likely to gain mo­men­tum. On the other hand, the con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion bloc will face an even harder time win­ning back pub­lic sup­port. The fall of the cur­rent party lead­ers, in­clud­ing Chair­man Hong Joon-pyo of the main op­po­si­tion Lib­erty Korea Party (LKP), is inevitable and some par­ties may seek mergers.

The lo­cal elec­tions were the first na­tion­wide poll since Moon took of­fice in May last year, and thus were re­garded as a mid-term eval­u­a­tion of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, es­pe­cially be­cause by-elec­tions were also held for 12 Na­tional Assem­bly seats.

The DPK’s sweep­ing vic­tory had long been ex­pected con­sid­er­ing the ever-high ap­proval rat­ing of the Pres­i­dent, which keeps hov­er­ing above 70 per­cent. Such a fore­cast be­came firm along with the peace at­mos­phere sur­round­ing the Korean Penin­sula that has in­cluded two in­ter-Korean sum­mits and the first North Korea-U.S. sum­mit.

Boosted by the huge vic­tory, the rul­ing bloc will be able to carry out its re­form poli­cies more eas­ily and con­fi­dently be­cause the election out­come means pub­lic sup­port for the ad­min­is­tra­tion and rul­ing party.

What’s more en­cour­ag­ing for the DPK is that its can­di­dates won in districts that used to be the con­ser­va­tives’ home turf, in­clud­ing Bu­san, Ul­san and South Gyeongsang Province.

The by-election re­sults were also in fa­vor of the rul­ing bloc.

It will help eas­ier pas­sage of the govern­ment’s re­form bills at the Assem­bly, while many re­form drives have so far faced set­backs due to op­po­si­tion mainly from the LKP. A DPK mem­ber is also likely to take the Assem­bly’s speaker po­si­tion for the lat­ter half of the 20th Assem­bly.

Con­trary to the up­beat mood of the rul­ing bloc, op­po­si­tion par­ties, es­pe­cially the main con­ser­va­tive LKP, are find­ing no way out from the col­lapse.

The LKP urged peo­ple to vote for the party and not for the DPK by say­ing the rul­ing bloc could turn dic­ta­to­rial if given too much power. But it failed to present it­self as a re­li­able op­po­si­tion force that can prop­erly check the rul­ing bloc and pro­vide al­ter­na­tive pol­icy di­rec­tions.

In­stead, it just fo­cused on di­min­ish­ing the peace mood cre­ated by the Moon ad­min­is­tra­tion — a tac­tic that has back­fired.

“The lo­cal elec­tions were an eval­u­a­tion of the LKP, not the Moon ad­min­is­tra­tion,” po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Choi Yo-han said.

“The main op­po­si­tion party kept crit­i­ciz­ing ev­ery­thing about the govern­ment’s North Korea pol­icy even in the rec­on­cil­ia­tory at­mos­phere. That an­gered vot­ers.”

Hong may have to step down from the chair­man­ship to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the poor election out­come. Even be­fore the elec­tions, he faced protests from his own party mem­bers for uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion-mak­ing and of­fen­sive lan­guage.

The LKP’s in­ter­nal dis­pute could lead to a split and the whole con­ser­va­tive bloc may be re­aligned through mergers. Some pre­dict the LKP may merge with the Bare­un­mi­rae Party, which in­cludes former mem­bers of the former Saenuri Party, the pre­de­ces­sor of the LKP.

Pres­i­dent Moon

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