Independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo has announced plans to create a new party in March. His aides said the party would field candidates for key races in the local elections scheduled for June this year. More specifically, the party will have its own candidates for the 17 largest mayoral and gubernatorial posts across the country.
It is the first time that Ahn and his group have announced a concrete timetable for launching the long-anticipated party and decided to participate in the elections in all of the major cities and provinces. The fledgling political group’s move indicates that the upcoming elections will be a three-way competition with the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party.
In view of the Korean voters’ deep disenchantment with politicians and political parties, Ahn’s venture into the real political world is welcome. It is hoped that the group will help reinvigorate the political system by selecting qualified candidates for the local elections.
Despite the relatively high popularity Ahn and his envisaged party are enjoying, however, the group has yet to win over people who are worthy of attention. The list of those who have already joined Ahn’s group is hardly impressive.
Now that Ahn’s group has decided to participate in all the major mayoral and gubernatorial elections, it should be in a hurry to recruit candidates. The last thing we want to see is for the party to go for “migratory birds” ― those who easily switch their political affiliation in shameless pursuit of political and personal interests. We raise this concern because Ahn’s team already includes such politicians.
No less important is to stay away from “candidacy trade-offs” that often determine the outcome of major elections. In a typical case, a political party or candidate gives up or withdraws candidacy and supports a rival candidate in the name of unifying their candidacies.
They tout many reasons to justify what are usually the results of dirty political deals aimed at winning the elections by any means available. There are even cases in which a political party gives up candidacy in one election district in exchange for gaining the same concession in a different district.
Ahn himself is already an old hand at the practice. He gave up running in the Seoul mayoral by-election in 2011 and supported Park Won-soon instead, calling for a unified liberal front against the ruling party candidate. Ahn ran in the presidential election the following year, only to yield again, to Moon Jae-in, the main opposition candidate.
It was therefore more disappointing to hear that Ahn wants Park to yield to his party’s candidate in the Seoul mayoral election. That is not a position to be taken by a leader who says he will become the vanguard of a new political force that is totally different from the old politics. What he has to do is find a candidate who can beat Park, not ask the mayor to give way to him in return for a concession he made three years ago.
Ahn said he would make his party “last 100 years.” We remember many other politicians and parties that have come out with the slogan “new politics” and then disappeared. What Ahn has to do in order to avoid this fate is self-evident.