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[Editorial] Party in disarray

Incumbent lawmakers tend to put their reelection before anything else. Nothing is wrong with their single-mined pursuit of reelection unless they engage in an act that can be morally or legally sanctioned.

Still, they may cause problems for their party if their actions, though taken legitimately for the sake of their reelection, conflict with their party’s policies. It may also create a problem for the party if the lawmakers are pitted against one another on certain issues.

Such a development, when it arises, surely tests the party’s capacity for reconciling individual lawmakers’ self-interests with its own policies. But the ruling Grand National Party has failed the test miserably on numerous occasions, which is truly regrettable. In other words, the chairman of the party failed to exercise his leadership properly.

A case in point is the party’s decision not to act on a bill on Islamic bonds during the current extraordinary session of the National Assembly under pressure from the Protestant community. Party lawmakers demanded that no action be taken on the bill, submitted in September 2009, with Protestant leaders vowing to launch campaigns against those supporting the bill when the next general elections come around in 2012.

Church leaders made dubious claims, including an assertion that the bill, if passed, would help strengthen Islamic presence in the nation. If so, why are so many non-Islamic countries in the world eager to borrow oil money in a manner as would be made possible by the pending bill?

The ruling party could have put those claims under scrutiny, and deliberated on the bill at relevant committees. Instead, the party’s leadership succumbed to pressure from many of its lawmakers as well as the Christian community, blocking the new source of foreign capital, which could be put to good use in aiding the nation’s economic growth.

Undoubtedly, the ruling party’s decision disappointed those wanting to benefit from the Islamic way of financial transactions. They included corporations desiring to finance projects in the Middle East at lower costs and financial institutions wishing to borrow oil money to diversify their funding sources.

Little better was the main opposition Democratic Party, which also opposed the bill. The party mistakenly asserted that the bill would give disproportionate tax favors to Islamists.

Another area of conflict between individual lawmakers and the party is the proposed construction of a science belt and a new airport. The party recently urged its lawmakers to abstain from escalating conflict between different regions competing against one another for the science belt and airport projects.

Rep. Ahn Sang-soo, party chairman, is calling on party members, including lawmakers, governors and mayors, to avoid action that may fuel regional conflict over the two projects and to wait until the administration comes up with a rational decision. He is quoted as saying, “Provinces and cities involved are too keenly confrontational against one another.”

But the call for self-restraint, though understandable, will probably fall on deaf ears, given that all lawmakers involved are desperate to take whatever action they believe will enhance their chances of being reelected. Some of them already show signs of revolt. They say they accept the party’s request, but not wholeheartedly.

No matter what the party’s leadership does, there will be winners and losers when the administration decides where the science belt and the airport will be located. If so, a more competent leadership would bring the science belt, airport and some other sensitive projects out into the open now, let all stakeholders in the party engage in earnest debate, adopt official policies and make recommendations. Procrastination will be of little help in resolving regional conflict over those projects.
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