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Protecting Vested Interests

Posted June. 19, 2010 17:30,   


Soon after the ruling Grand National Party’s defeat in the June 2 local elections, the party’s floor leader Kim Moo-sung said many candidates who failed to win party nominations ran independently, leading to the embarrassing loss. Ten incumbent heads of provincial government offices were reelected after they bolted from the party and ran as independents after failing to win the party’s nomination. Twelve other incumbents who ran independently but lost in the elections helped ensure defeat for the party’s candidates by eating into their votes.

At one electoral district in Seoul, a ruling party lawmaker used his influence to nominate his former aide for the head of a district office. The incumbent failed to win the party’s nomination but ran as an independent, so the conservative vote was split and led to the victory of the main opposition Democratic Party’s candidate. At another electoral district in Gyeonggi Province, a ruling party lawmaker held a news conference opposing his party’s nomination of a candidate over another hopeful he had endorsed. The ruling party formed a committee to recruit new faces before the elections, but it contributed little to infusing new blood into the party. The party’s nomination review committee of people from its headquarters and provincial and municipal party offices did not help matters, either.

The ruling party once said it would nominate a former short-track skating star, a gymnast and an ethnic Filipino who acquired Korean citizenship as candidates for proportional representation. Their names, however, were not included in or were given lower priority on the list of final candidates because of internal conflict over factional interests. The party became a battlefield of protecting vested interests rather than paving the way for new faces with ability and integrity.

Some say the party’s decision in 2006 to hand over the nomination authority to provincial and municipal party offices prevented party headquarters’ efforts to recruit fresh faces and gave incumbents the means to use their influence to prevent their potential rivals from getting nominations.

The ruling party will hold its national convention July 14 to elect its new leadership, which will work with the Lee Myung-bak administration to lay the foundation for the party’s victory in the 2012 presidential election. Some 15 people have declared their candidacy, pledging to bring change to the party. At one point, talks discussed leaders of the party’s two major factions running for chairman. At a time when it promises a new order in response to the people’s demand, the party clings to leaders of the old order.

If the party puts up entry barriers against new faces to protect vested interests and fails to bring changes, the national convention will become the arena for the “league of their own,” or those simply pursuing their own political interests.