Opposition bogged down over election agenda

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 13, 2014 - 20:13
  • Updated : Apr 13, 2014 - 20:44
New Politics Alliance for Democracy cochairmen Ahn Cheol-soo (right) and Kim Han-gil hold a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul. (Yonhap)
The New Politics Alliance for Democracy on Sunday struggled to establish a new political weapon to confront the ruling Saenuri Party ahead of the upcoming local elections and to salvage its main principle of “new politics.”

The main opposition party had earlier called for the abolishment of the candidate nomination system as its core election strategy, used to denounce the ruling party for failing keep its promise. But with the NPAD backtracking from its much-repeated pledge, the framework of “lies and promises” that the opposition party had built fell apart along with its drive for political reform. On Thursday, the NPAD announced it would nominate candidates for the local elections in compliance with a party vote and opinion poll that reversed party leaders’ decision to abolish nominations.

“As long as (we) turn to nominate candidates for the local elections, the framework of ‘lies verses promises’ can’t be continued. We are working hard to come up with a new catchphrase,” a party official said.

Reports say that the new party is likely to announce stricter rules for the candidate nomination system for the June 4 local elections to make the process more transparent and to replace officials who had been repeatedly nominated by the party over the years by new candidates.

The NPAD’s regional office in Seoul said Sunday afternoon that it would replace over 20 percent of incumbent heads at the city’s ward offices and councilors applying for candidate nominations for the local elections.

“We will apply stricter rules and principles and carry out democratic elections to nominate candidates qualified in terms of ability, talent and ethics,” said officials at a news conference held at the National Assembly.

The move was seen as a preparatory course for the party’s central office before it announces a new set of qualification rules for candidates for local elections.

According to party officials, the NPAD is planning to deny nominations for candidates who have engaged in bribery, embezzlement or sexual harassment. The party also was expected to disqualify candidates with family members or relatives accused of criminal acts.

If announced, the new rule could partly help the party to rebuild its key agenda of “new politics.” But it could also spark strong opposition from intraparty members and divide the party into two factions, experts say.

“If the new rule works, it could contribute in the development of regional politics as well as (the country’s) political system. But it could become the center of factional disputes,” said Yang Seung-ham, professor of political science at Yonsei University.

Applying stricter rules for its candidate nominations may work. But experts say it will be difficult for the opposition party to establish a new key election agenda as powerful as the issue of the nomination system.

The NPAD had been highlighting the failure of the ruling party and the Park Geun-hye government to keep their promise to abolish the nomination system. The party-administered nomination system has been denounced for corrupt links between aspiring candidates and party executives. Although abolishing the nomination system in local elections was a key political reform pledge of President Park, the ruling Saenuri Party has backtracked, saying it may be unconstitutional.

The issue of the nomination system was crucial for the NPAD for it was the only point that differentiated the opposition bloc from the ruling party, said Lee Chung-hee, political science professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

In past local elections, rival parties often battled over policies, Lee said. But with the ruling party embracing more welfare issues that were often championed by the opposition party, the boundaries between the rival parties have become less distinct, he added.

By Cho Chung-un (