The alliance of the main opposition Democratic United Party and the minority Unified Progressive Party proved partially effective in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections, but its limits were revealed as well.
Political pundits generally say that the alliance to unify candidates to raise the parties’ winning chances acted in favor of the UPP rather than the DUP, though it was ironically the DUP which initiated the bond in an attempt to beat the ruling majority party and become the largest party in the parliament.
The liberal parties largely benefited from their alliance back in the 2010 local elections and last year’s Seoul mayoral election by unifying their candidates to avoid splitting the left-wing vote.
Encouraged by such successes, they once again agreed to unite before moving onto election campaigns for this year’s political races.
In Seoul and its vicinity, their collaboration took effect, especially in those districts where liberal runners ran a tight race up to the last minute.
The liberal bloc won a total of 32 seats in 48 constituencies in Seoul, including strategic areas such as Jongno and Youngdeungpo-B. For the strategic areas, the bloc nominated candidates without primaries.
Of them, two seats were taken by UPP figures, Roh Hoe-chan in Nowon-C and Lee Sang-kyu in Gwanak-B.
Lee’s victory may especially be attributed to the DUP’s withdrawal of its candidate to field a single runner, as the district has long been a firm stronghold for the party.
The two parties, however, could not avoid criticism that they politically united just for the sake of election victory, though they had little in common in terms of policy.
Also, their alliance stirred a sense of crisis in the conservative bloc that paradoxically resulted in uniting its support prior to the elections.
Nevertheless, the minority UPP had little to lose as it has become the third-largest party of the next parliament, though it failed to win 20 seats nationwide, which is the minimum requirement in order to establish a floor negotiation unit.
It was the DUP which has come to doubt the actual benefits of the bond.
In an attempt to befriend the far-left UPP, the DUP has taken several progressive turns in its major policies, which eventually blurred its political identity, observers noted.
This, too, disappointed the voters in the traditional rural areas in Gangwon and Chungcheong provinces, where the ruling camp achieved above expectations, they said.
“The Saenuri Party accused us of being pro-communist and their accusations worked in the center-left spectrum,” said a party official.
“The alliance is a major reason why we failed to attract the moderate swing voters.”
The DUP was also hit by the allegations that aides to UPP leader Lee Jung-hee manipulated public poll results during the primary race. Though Lee resigned, the disputes disclosed the inter-party feuds hidden under the name of unity.
It is not likely, however, that the two liberal parties will easily break their hard-reached bond prior to the presidential election slated for December.
The DUP won 127 parliamentary seats in total, including 11 proportional representative ones, and failed to reclaim its past position as the parliament’s No. 1 party.
At least for now, it needs to keep an alliance with the UPP, which won a total of 13 seats, in order to stand close to equal with the leading Saenuri Party, which took 152 seats.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org