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The ruling party’s defeat is due to a strategy of subtraction

The ruling party’s defeat is due to a strategy of subtraction

Posted April. 12, 2024 07:53,   

Updated April. 12, 2024 07:53


In the lead-up to the general elections on April 10, a college friend with a keen interest in politics approached me with a pertinent question regarding the People Power Party (PPP) strategy and its reluctance to align with the New Reform Party. When pressed for an explanation, I casually mentioned that it was too late to form such an alliance. Moreover, there was a personal aversion within the party toward Lee Jun-seok. This led to a further inquiry from my friend, questioning why the PPP was simultaneously seeking to court younger voters while disregarding a potential candidate who could appeal to men in their 30s.

A senior official from the ruling party once characterized the Yoon Suk Yeol administration as a coalition government, emphasizing that Yoon's victory was secured by a narrow 0.73% margin, with support not only from his followers but also from backers of Hong Joon-pyo, Yoo Seung-min, Lee Jun-seok, and Ahn Cheol-soo. However, President Yoon subsequently distanced himself from key figures including Yoo Seung-min, Lee Jun-seok, and Ahn Cheol-soo, neglecting to consolidate the support of these factions within the coalition.

The ruling party suffered a resounding defeat in the general elections, a setback many had anticipated due to the party's persistently negative strategy since coming into power. The party's pattern of abandonment began with former lawmaker Yoo Seung-min. After Yoo's unsuccessful bid in the presidential primary, he shifted focus to contesting the Gyeonggi Provincial Governor position. However, core leadership within the ruling party actively worked against Yoo, purportedly at the behest of President Yoon. This action led to Yoo distancing himself from the PPP and many centrist voters who aligned with him.

The removal of then-PPP leader Lee Jun-seok was followed by internal opposition from Yoon's supporters, who disapproved of Lee's clashes with the president during the presidential campaign. While framed as a disciplinary measure, Lee's ousting ultimately cost the party the support of men in their thirties.

This subtraction pattern continued, notably during the party convention on March 8, 2023, when the Presidential Office criticized former lawmaker Na Gyung-won for seeking party leadership, citing her use of public office for political gain. Na had been popular among traditional conservative supporters. When Ahn Cheol-soo proposed a "Yoon-Ahn coalition," the Presidential Office rebuked Ahn, stating that he lacked sufficient closeness to President Yoon despite Ahn's substantial support base that made him even a presidential candidate.

The conservative camp, once tightly knit, began to fray, alienating voters in the process. President Yoon's approval ratings remained below 30%, yet efforts to bridge these divides were noticeably absent as the general elections drew nearer.

As the general elections drew nearer, candidates in the Seoul metropolitan area began expressing their apprehensions. Lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun, serving his fourth term, repeatedly raised concerns about the party's electoral prospects in the Seoul metropolitan area, describing a troubling pattern within the party. He likened the issue to cancer, citing a persistent tendency to subtract rather than add valuable personnel. Yoon questioned how the party could succeed in elections while continually engaging in negative strategies.

Last month, a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction with public sentiment in the Seoul metropolitan area gripped the People Power Party (PPP), echoing sentiments reminiscent of the previous 21st general elections. "This is a critical situation. We must act decisively," remarked Kim Seong-tae, the Election Committee Director of the Seoul Area, emphasizing the urgent need to reunite with former colleagues such as ex-lawmaker Yoo. However, Han Dong-hoon, the PPP interim leader, dismissed this suggestion. The conservative party, which had previously managed to present a semblance of unity during election periods despite internal conflicts, failed to make even a token effort towards solidarity this time.

Ultimately, the general election outcome underscored the PPP's strategic missteps, as the ruling party opted to subtract rather than add to its support base, resulting in a decisive defeat. Despite last-minute appeals for additional votes, the party's disregard for existing support likely sealed their fate.