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Ahn Cheol-soo’s return without cause and ‘path of centrism’

Ahn Cheol-soo’s return without cause and ‘path of centrism’

Posted August. 04, 2017 07:14,   

Updated August. 04, 2017 07:24


Ahn Cheol-soo, former chairman and presidential candidate of the minor opposition People’s Party, announced on Thursday his bid for the leadership of the party troubled by a fake tip-off scandal and falling public support. “(My decision to join the race) is not for me to survive, but is due to my sense of urgency to salvage the party,” he told a news conference, claiming that his party’s collapse would result in a quick revival of the two major parties’ “politics of vested interest.” Stressing the concept of “extreme centrism” in contrast with the extreme right or left, he argued that he had no choice but to serve as his party’s “face” in order to lead to win public support as a centrist party.

Ahn’s urgency to rescue his party is understandable. It is true that the People’s Party has fallen out of the public’s favor after its defeat in the May presidential election as an ambiguous party. That is probably the fate of a third party. However, it failed to play its role as a political balancer even when the two conservative parties – the Liberty Korea Party and the Bareun Party – were not able to play their roles as opposition parties. In that respect, Ahn’s return to the forefront of the party is not insignificant. In the history of Korea’s party politics, politicians with “ownership” of a political party have often taken the helms of the party at time of leadership vacuum.

However, Ahn’s bid for the party’s leadership at this point is not entirely convincing. Once posing a threat to Moon Jae-in at one point during the presidential campaign by garnering support from moderate and conservative voters, he was caught up by Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party, only to finish third in the presidential race. A candidate should take the greatest responsibility for an election defeat. Moreover, his party had to make a public apology for its members’ involvement in the fabrication of an election-season tip-off against President Moon Jae-in's son.

It was the public’s resentment against the major political parties’ ideological confrontations that catapulted the newly created People’s Party as the third party in the April 13, 2016 parliamentary elections. However, the party has never demonstrated its values as a centrist party since. Ahn’s emphasis of the centrist values by blending of “extreme” and “centrism” is interpreted as his intention to walk the path of a centrist party. Now that he is running for the party’s leadership, we hope that he will deliberate on the true meaning of centrism.