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Procedural Democracy

Posted July. 15, 2010 13:57,   


At its national convention Wednesday, the ruling Grand National Party elected Ahn Sang-soo as chairman and Hong Joon-pyo, Na Kyung-won, Chung Doo-un and Suh Byung-soo to the party’s supreme council. The four will lead the party through July 2012. The new leadership should also prepare for the 2012 general elections and presidential primaries while leading the incumbent administration along with President Lee Myung-bak over the remainder of his term. They are tasked with the important responsibilities of completing the incumbent administration and taking power again. In this respect, assuming the posts of ruling party leader and supreme council member can be both an honor and a burden.

Given the party’s situation, the road ahead hardly looks smooth. The party has failed to fulfill its duty as the ruling party. Despite a parliamentary majority, it has been swayed by the opposition and failed to lead in administering state affairs. The communication channel between the government and people remains closed. Intra-party conflict has continued between those loyal to President Lee and those backing former party leader Park Geun-hye. Neither a firm sense of duty nor sense of solidarity, which are required for a ruling party, is to be found. Not surprisingly, the party has been called a “well-being,” “herbivorous” or “two-nation” party. For a new start, the party’s new leadership must begin changing party fundamentals while resolving disharmony and scars created in the election process for the party leadership.

Rep. Lee Byung-seok, who attended an emergency countermeasure committee meeting after the party’s crushing defeat in the June 2 elections, criticized the party, saying members looked like “Sui (a Chinese ancient dynasty) troops who crossed the Salsu (Chongchon) River after being defeated by Korea’s ancient kingdom Goguryeo.” He said, “There has been no order, camaraderie or counterattack (against the opposition), only vicious attempts to cross a river by stepping on the backs of comrades.” The party is even being ridiculed as “three families under one roof.” If no action is taken, it can neither regain public trust or momentum for administration nor achieve social integration by resolving ideological, regional and generational conflicts.

According to a survey of party delegates by The Dong-A Ilbo, harmony between the pro-Lee and pro-Park factions was chosen as the preferred top priority of the new leadership, followed by reestablishment of relations among the party, government and presidential office, presentation of policies for the middle and working class, and strengthening of communication with the younger generation. The urgent tasks the new leadership should tackle to regain power are integration of party factions, eliminating the party’s negative image as supporting the privileged and rich, nurturing candidates for the next president, and forming a grand coalition among conservative forces, the delegates said. They cited internal division and lack of leadership and political capability as causes for the party’s woes. The majority of delegates chose economic recovery as the top priority of the Lee administration in the latter half of its term. This is what the people want.

More than anything, the new leadership should establish democracy in party procedures. Fair rules for nomination of parliamentary candidates and for the presidential primaries are needed so that all factions and candidates can accept the results. Party decision-making processes should be also made transparent and democratic. As history shows, the selection of public candidates based on unfair rules leads to internal feud and deep distrust, resulting in the collapse of a party. Unfair selection is also the cause of a lack of candidate competitiveness. The enmity and confrontation between the pro-Lee and pro-Park factions have originated from unjust selection processes.

Procedural democracy must be achieved not only for the advancement of the ruling party, but also for the development of Korean politics. If the selection of public candidates and decision making processes are made impeccably transparent and democratic, the public perception of politics and the administration will significantly change. Hopefully, the new ruling party leadership will do a good job.