Opinion polls showed that President Park Geun-hye’s approval rating dropped from 67 percent in September to 53 percent in October, reverting approximately to her share of the votes cast in last year’s presidential election. The rise in the public support for Park, attributable mainly to her principled handling of inter-Korean affairs, was pared away by the partial rollback of her welfare pledges and the allegations that the state spy agency meddled in the election to spread negative views about her rival candidate.
The main opposition Democratic Party, however, has not seen the recent decline in Park’s popularity turn into a surge in voter support for it. The DP’s approval rating slipped from 24 percent at the start of the year to 20 percent last month.
The liberal opposition party was driven further into embarrassment when it suffered crushing defeats in two parliamentary by-elections last week. In a politically neutral constituency in Gyeonggi Province, the DP candidate lost to his contender from the conservative ruling Saenuri Party by an overwhelming margin of more than 33 percentage points.
The latest electoral setback, which followed defeats in the April by-elections, proved that the opposition party had alienated itself from the public by being preoccupied with damaging the legitimacy of Park’s election. With the bloc of independent voters with rational and moderate tendency expanding, any political party can hardly expect an easy boost from its opponents’ missteps.
It seems that the DP is now on course to a calamity in next June’s local elections, which will set the political landscape for the remainder of Park’s five-year presidency.
What is required of the opposition party is to shed its image of being tied to the past, building a reputation as an alternative force capable of taking back power by suggesting more constructive and effective policy options. The first step in this direction would be to become more proactive toward passing bills related to reviving the sluggish economy and enhancing people’s livelihoods during the current parliamentary session.
It will only act against the DP’s chances of winning future elections and ensuring productive politics if the opposition party continues to confine itself to a confrontational framework and drift away from the dominant public sentiment.