Parliamentary by-elections in eight districts nationwide were held Wednesday. As is always the case with elections, politics and policy were lost amid political mudslinging. The elections were dominated by disputes over the governments illegal monitoring of civilians and politicians and abuse of power by a certain group of people. The mudslinging among ruling and opposition lawmakers and between ruling party factions has caused turmoil in national administration and the political arena.
With the vote over, too much significance should not be given to the by-elections. President Lee Myung-bak should speed up a Cabinet reshuffle to stabilize public sentiment and gain new momentum for administration. Despite the reshuffle of the presidential staff and the leadership of the ruling Grand National Party, the effects have been reduced by the delay in the Cabinet reshuffle. With his five-year term halfway over in one month, he should carry out a bold reshuffle to start the second half of his term with a fresh look.
With no major elections for the next 18 months, the president has a good opportunity to fully focus on state affairs. His administration should solidify the basis for upgrading all sectors, including politics, economy and society. Seoul must also speed up efforts to achieve substantial results in education reform, reorganization of the countrys industrial structure, and elimination of corruption. It should also exercise politics of communication so that divisive projects including the four-river restoration venture gets back on track. The presidents initiative for low-income people should be backed by forceful policies so that it does not end up as pork-barrel populism and provide real help to the underprivileged.
Politicians should also go back to the basics and faithfully execute their duties. The ruling party should share the responsibility of state management, while the opposition should compete with the ruling party with policy alternatives rather than irrational demands. Both sides should pay attention to the peoples livelihood. Despite clear signs of economic recovery, the effects are not trickling down to the low-income bracket. Job creation and reviving the stagnant real estate market are urgent tasks.
On North Korea and national security, the opposition should be cooperative when necessary to protect national interests. Bipartisan efforts are needed to strengthen national security and care for the underprivileged.
If national administration is to have a driving force, political harmony within the ruling camp is a prerequisite. The pro-Lee faction and the other led by the ruling partys former leader Park Geun-hye should achieve genuine reconciliation. In addition, the pro-Lee faction should have no internal cacophony. As an administration enters the second half of its term, internal political discord is likely to emerge from inside the power circle, leading to the lame duck phenomenon. The president should delegate much of his power to his ministers so that they can formulate policies customized to the situation and reality.