Posted March. 17, 2010 08:29,
Whenever elections in Korea come near, politicians establish new parties. With a few months before the June 2 local elections, this old habit has reared its ugly head.
The move reflects the intention of politicians who will endure anything to get elected.
For the local elections, politicians created the New Progressive Party Jan. 29, saying they inherited the spirit of the late President Roh Moo-hyun. Lawmaker Sim Dae-pyeong will set up the People-centered Union and former main opposition Democratic Party Chairman Han Hwa-gap the Peaceful Democratic Party. The former is based in the Chungcheong provinces and the latter in the Jeolla provinces.
Eighteen parties have registered with the National Election Commission, a number that is expected to rise to 26.
Domestic politicians are used to forming new parties right before elections. In 2008, Grand National Party members who failed to be nominated as candidates bolted to create the Pro-Park Geun-hye Coalition, named after the partys former chairwoman. The party has recently renamed itself Future Hope Solidarity.
The People First Party was created shortly before the 2006 local elections and the Uri Party was created before the general elections two years before.
Politicians seem to want to set up new parties before elections since they want to earn gains by default. New parties target loopholes created by nomination disputes within major parties.
Experts also say new parties want to gain a political stake through mergers with established parties. Rumors even say that the New Progressive Party, at less than three months old, will begin negotiations with the Democratic Party.
Under the dominant principle of party politics, parties have promised to release their own platforms and policies and be judged by the people. Yet this principle has vanished into the thin air.
The move to establish new parties before elections is related to the controversy over migrant politicians. The ruling party has publicized its decision to embrace former Uri Party members, and will make strategic nominations in the local elections.
The Democratic Party has faced difficulty since it allowed former Jeju Island Gov. Woo Geun-min, who allegedly committed sexual harassment, to rejoin the party.
Reckless candidate recruitment by either party not only goes against the dominant principle of party politics, but could also hurt either sides showing in the elections.
Han Jeong-taek, a researcher at Modern Politics Research Center of Sogang University in Seoul, analyzed the reelection ratio of the 2006 local elections. He said 21 (36.8 percent) of 57 candidates who defected to another party were elected.
On the other hand, the reelection ratio of candidates who did not bolt was 90.1 percent. In other words, 91 of 101 candidates who stayed put were elected.
Of 904 incumbent lawmakers who have continuously ran for office since the 14th general elections, the reelection ratio of 191 lawmakers who moved to another political party was 39.8 percent, far lower than the 66.2 percent of 713 lawmakers who remained with their respective parties.
This shows that lawmakers who frequently change parties have proven unsuccessful in elections.
Parties release grand slogans to win votes, but the recent birth of new parties and controversy over fickle politicians show the backwardness of domestic politics. A small but genuine step should come first rather than ambitious campaign pledges.