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[Editorial] Opposition Must Return to Parliament

Posted July. 07, 2008 09:01,   


The main opposition United Democratic Party yesterday shortened its name to the Democratic Party and selected its leadership for the next two years. It is finally ready to start afresh after the merger in April this year between the United New Democratic Party and the former Democratic Party ahead of the general elections the same month, putting an end to its habit of constantly disguising itself under different names. It is time for the Democratic Party to become a party of substance if it is to secure a solid footing as the main opposition party trusted by the people.

For the past three months, the party has done almost nothing but ride on the people’s rage over U.S. beef imports to give the administration a hard time. With opposition parties boycotting the National Assembly, an action defying legal mandate, the 18th National Assembly has left a disgraceful mark in the nation’s 60 years of constitutional rule by failing to even elect the parliamentary speaker in the extra session (June 5 – July 4) 30 days into the Assembly’s inauguration. Parliament has been off track for more than a month because the main opposition party, which receives an annual subsidy of 10 billion won (9.5 million U.S. dollars), has neglected its duty to organize the legislature.

The Lee administration did indeed make too many concessions and took too little time in negotiations on U.S. beef imports. The Democratic Party has rightfully criticized the government for its inept decision. The mad cow disease scare, however, is completely another matter and identifying U.S. cattle with “crazy cow” is an absurd act that only exposes Korea to ridicule. Based on dubious data fabricated by certain TV programs such as MBC’s “PD Notebook,” the People’s Association for Measures against Mad Cow Disease has led illegal protests against the government for the past two months. Certain protesters have gone as far as using violence against riot police, citizens and the media. Nonetheless, the Democratic Party cheered on the protesters instead of calming them down.

Despite its fervent support for the candlelight vigils, the Democratic Party is seeing its popularity stuck in the 10-percent range. Furthermore, the administration is in a deadlock, and no one seems concerned over the people’s welfare. The National Assembly has also exposed itself to ridicule. Against this backdrop, the Democratic Party must take the situation seriously. This is necessary if the party is to prove its ability to support the government as a solid and experienced partner in administration instead of degrading itself as a minor party talented only at sponsoring the anti-mad cow disease association.

The party’s leadership must clearly show the people the party’s identity and ability to keep the government and the ruling party in check; its essential duty as the main opposition party is to win the hearts of the people. It is time for the party’s leaders to decide whether they will return to the National Assembly to restore parliamentary order and discuss the people’s welfare or represent the interests of only a small group of people.