Fall of con­ser­va­tives

Elec­tion out­come re­flects dis­con­tent in old pol­i­tics

The Korea Times - - OPINION -

The June 13 elec­tions can be summed up as the crush­ing fall of con­ser­va­tive pol­i­tics. The main op­po­si­tion Lib­erty Korea Party (LKP) man­aged to win only two out of the 17 gov­er­nor and may­oral posts in the lo­cal elec­tions, while the rul­ing Demo­cratic Party of Korea (DPK) took 14 and Won Hee-ry­ong took Jeju gov­er­nor’s post as an in­de­pen­dent. In ad­di­tion, the rul­ing party also took 11 out of 12 Na­tional As­sem­bly seats in by-elec­tions.

It was shocking for the largest op­po­si­tion party that it even failed to win in its tra­di­tional strongholds. The dev­as­tat­ing elec­tion de­feat prompted LKP leader Hong Joon-pyo to re­sign Thurs­day, say­ing, “it is all my fault and all the re­spon­si­bil­ity for the de­feat lies with me.” Yoo Seong-min, a co-leader of the mi­nor op­po­si­tion Bare­un­mi­rae Party, also re­signed fol­low­ing his party’s dis­as­trous per­for­mance, with Ahn Cheol-soo, a for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, com­ing in a dis­tant third in the Seoul may­oral elec­tion.

The out­come of the lo­cal elec­tions is not sur­pris­ing given that the con­ser­va­tive par­ties have failed to rein­vent them­selves af­ter the cor­rup­tion scan­dal of for­mer Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye. They did not prop­erly re­spond to the peo­ple’s needs and failed to catch up with the times.

Hong’s dis­ori­ented lead­er­ship was also a huge im­ped­i­ment to re­gain­ing the peo­ple’s trust in con­ser­va­tive pol­i­tics.

The lo­cal elec­tions were deemed as the peo­ple’s judg­ment on Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in’s per­for­mance a year af­ter he took of­fice in May 2017. The high voter turnout of 60.2 per­cent, the high­est in 23 years, shows the public’s keen in­ter­est these elec­tions. The DPK’s land­slide vic­tory, which came just one day af­ter the his­toric U.S-North Korea sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore, shows strong public sup­port for Moon’s diplo­macy with North Korea and var­i­ous re­form ini­tia­tives.

It is par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy that Moon’s party at­tained ter­rific re­sults in con­ser­va­tive strongholds. In the sec­ond-largest city of Bu­san, Oh Geo-don who served the cab­i­net of for­mer Pres­i­dent Roh Moo-hyun, won the may­oral elec­tion. Kim Ky­oung-soo, a close aide of Pres­i­dent Moon, won the post of gov­er­nor of South Gyeongsang Prov­ince de­spite his al­leged in­volve­ment in an on­line ma­nip­u­la­tion scan­dal. Song Cheol-ho, a for­mer hu­man rights lawyer who also served in the Roh ad­min­is­tra­tion, took the Ul­san may­oral elec­tion.

The DPK was vis­i­bly ju­bi­lant, but it should not be com­pla­cent about the elec­tion vic­tory. As the pres­i­dent said in a state­ment af­ter­ward, the DPK’s vic­tory did not mean that the public was happy with his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s per­for­mance in all ar­eas. Pres­i­dent Moon still has much work ahead to im­prove the hope­less job sit­u­a­tion and turn around the econ­omy. The Pres­i­dent and the rul­ing party must up­hold the spirit of cooperative pol­i­tics with the op­po­si­tion to achieve max­i­mum re­sults in state af­fairs.

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