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Generational Shift

Posted June. 08, 2010 08:39,   


Because of the ruling Grand National Party’s defeat in Wednesday`s local elections, junior representatives within the party are urging a generational shift in the party’s leadership. They are largely conscious of the tangible leadership transition in the main opposition Democratic Party, whose representatives in their 40s were elected mayors and governors such as rep. Song Young-gil, Lee Kwang-jae and Ahn Hee-jung. Furthermore, minor conservative Liberty Forward Party Chairman Lee Hoi-chang has submitted his resignation, which is expected to accelerate a generational shift in political leadership.

The elections could signal the beginning of an intense race between the ruling and opposition parties ahead of the next presidential election. The opposition party seems to revel in its recent victory, which puts it at an advantageous position for a potential transition in power two years later. In stark contrast, the ruling party seems to be accepting reality much slower than it needs to. Still reluctant to conduct a Cabinet reshuffle early, the administration seems largely unaware of the massive tide triggered by forces opposed to the ruling party and President Lee Myung-bak. Some have voiced the need for change within the party, but none of them sound desperate enough.

Multiple factors are at work behind the ruling party’s defeat, but the public’s alienation from the administration and the party seems to be the fundamental reason. While the ruling party won 39.8 percent in wide area proportional representation, its chief rival claimed 35.1 percent followed by the progressive Democratic Labor Party with 7.4 percent and the New Progressive Party with 3.1 percent. In other words, opposition parties claimed an aggregate victory by fielding unified candidates. They could use the same tactics in the next presidential election unless the administration and the ruling party come up with proper countermeasures. The opposition coalition has solidified itself through experimental attempts in the local elections and will demonstrate stronger power in upcoming elections.

Against this backdrop, the generational shift suggested within the ruling party is a reasonable alternative. It could regain the political vitality it desperately needs only by sending away the old and welcoming the new. The ruling party cannot deal with massive changes and challenges with its adherence to complacency or popularity of certain party members. Generational shifts have brought about new political waves in other parts of the world as well. In addition to U.S. President Barack Obama, new U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservative Party and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democratic Party are all in their 40s.

A generational transition cannot be panacea to all pending issues of the ruling party. A fresh wave of ideas will bring about solid change only when accompanied by experience. Furthermore, a reactionary shift in generation will be short-lived. A true transition will have a higher chance of success and hold significance if followed by politics that give inspiration and hope to the people and contribute to improving their welfare.