The main opposition Democratic Party and independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo’s plan to launch a new party will be a double-edged sword for the opposition bloc, experts say.
According to political analysts, the DP-Ahn merger will place the opposition on stronger footing against the ruling Saenuri Party in the June 4 local elections, but weaken its cause of introducing so-called new politics.
“Establishing a two-party structure can be considered laying the foundations for competitive elections. This gives the opposition bloc, for which a crushing defeat was likely, a chance at a turnaround,” said Yoon Hee-woong, Min Consulting’s head of public opinion research.
Yoon added that despite the local elections’ overtone of passing judgment on the ruling party and the government, the ruling Saenuri Party had until now been the dominant force.
The Gallup Korea poll for the final week of February, before the merger was announced, painted a bleak picture for the DP. The survey placed the DP’s rating at 15 percent, while the ruling Saenuri Party and Ahn’s party came in at 40 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
Yoon, however, was cautious in interpreting the merger’s impact, citing the ruling party’s strong support base and the effect it will have on Ahn’s supporters.
“The important factor is how many independent voters and those with unfavorable views of the DP (among Ahn supporters) break away.”
Regardless of the advantages it may bring for the DP and Ahn, the merger has sparked off a barrage of criticism from the ruling party.
“The end of ‘Ahn Cheol-soo’s new politics,’ which heavily criticized established parties, was collusion with an existing party,” Saenuri Party floor leader Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan said. Choi added that Ahn has shown his true colors and has ignored the public’s desire for new politics by joining forces with the DP.
Since his days as a presidential candidate, Ahn has emphasized new politics as the only viable alternative to established politics. With no clear definition for the term, new politics has been interpreted to mean politics that listen to voters while steering clear of political wrangling and pledges aimed solely at winning votes.
“New politics as an alternative to established politics is finished,” said Yang Seung-ham, professor of political science at Yonsei University. “Having seen his limitations, Ahn has chosen to join the established system, most likely to try to engage in new politics from the inside.”
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)