The ruling People’s Power Party held on Friday the final TV debate for its party convention that was hosted by Channel A, concluding its campaign for selecting its new leaders. The party will conduct a mobile online vote and vote through the automatic response system for four days from Saturday, before electing its new leader and five members of its Supreme Council on Thursday. If no one wins the majority vote, the party will hold a second-round ballot on Sunday next week.
It is undeniable that the public has a negative view o the ruling party’s convention, which is to be held for the first time in a year since the March 9 presidential election. The convention should be a turning point for the party to lay the foundation to support state administration, ending its emergency committee-led operation to solidify its organization as a responsible ruling party. However, the convention, which started with controversy over the rule change to election based on ‘100-percent party members’ vote’ and President Yoon Suk Yeol’s alleged interference, spread to a war of nerves involving allegations of presidential impeachment and the right to nominate candidates for next general elections. Finally, it reached a point wherein a candidate demanded investigation authorities to investigate rival candidates.
Whenever candidates held a joint speech session in major cities across the nation, they made derogatory remarks against rival candidates, with supporters of rival candidates also booing the other side. At their joint speech session in Seoul on Thursday, candidate Kim Ki-hyun called his rival Ahn Cheol-soo “a person who will fail the party. In the meantime, Ahn and other candidates claimed Kim’s suspected real estate speculation is a “copycat of (opposition party leader) Lee Jae-myung’s Daejang-dong scandal.” This accusation has been made around the suspicion that the motorway route linked to KTX Ulsan Station candidate Kim was changed in 2007 to pass the forests and fields owned by Kim, allowing Kim to pocket a considerable profit. In return, Kim demanded police investigate candidate Hwang Kyo-ahn, who raised suspicion for the first time, candidate Ahn for the charge of spreading groundless rumors. In the election race for the party’s supreme council members, Rep. Chang Ye-chan was accused of participating in illegal auto racing, prompting rival candidates to demand Chang’s resignation as a candidate.
Looking back on the process of the latest party convention, it is fair to say the People’s Power Party has effectively lost its status and trust as the ruling party. People are struggling amid difficult livelihoods due to high inflation, high-interest rates, and an economic slump, but the party has failed to hold any notable discussions about policy direction and national reform. The party has continued intra-party strife with pro-President Yoon and anti-President Yoon factions entangled in a conflict that has lasted for more than a month.
Efforts by the minority People’s Party to engage in predictable legislative activities and to support state administration is the first and foremost obligation and requirement for Korea to secure national stability and overcome the crisis. It is all the more so in the current era when the right to make major policy decisions has shifted from the executive branch to the National Assembly. Even so, the People’s Power Party has failed to display an image of stability so far. Instead, the party only escalated people’s anxiety by engaging in internal strife for members to gain control of its leadership. Whoever will become the party’s new leaders, the most important task bestowed upon the party is clear. More than anything, the party should display capabilities and commitment to take action that could earn trust.