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[Editorial] All too familiar

Talk of opposition alliance gains momentum

It is an all too familiar tactic that opposition parties join forces for major elections, whether in the form of a merger or weaker arrangements, such as unifying candidacies. Yet, the latest talk of an opposition tie-up for the upcoming general election bewilders many and causes skepticism.

Kim Jong-in, the stopgap leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, has lit the fire on the talk of an opposition alliance. He said that opposition groups should unite to win the April 13 election and achieve a change of government through the next presidential election in 2017.

Kim had previously publicly expressed his op position on any election tie-up, so his sudden proposal caught many by surprise, all the more because it has already been a month since the launch of the People’s Party, a breakaway group from the Minjoo.

But apparently, Kim did not make the proposal casually. The Minjoo Party’s floor leader, Lee Jong-kul, ending the nine-day filibuster on Wednesday, said that the political momentum gained by the marathon floor speeches should lead to “bold alliance” between opposition parties.

Similar to the past, proponents of this alliance cite the noble cause of a united opposition bringing into check a juggernaut ruling party. But you don’t have to be a political analyst to see that they are only seeking to raise their chances of winning in the election.    

This betrays, among other things, what Ahn Cheol-soo and his followers said when they broke away from the Minjoo Party, which was then called the New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

Besides their frustration with the unilateral operation of the party by its mainstream faction, what drove Ahn and his associates to launch their own party -- according to them -- was the need to build a healthy third party and work for “new politics.”

Many Koreans who were fed up with the never-ending confrontations between a conservative party and a liberal party saw the possibility of the two-party system being broken. This was why Ahn’s party enjoyed high popularity in the initial stages of its formation.

It seems that at least Ahn wants to – or wants to appear to - stay on course. He blasted Kim’s proposal as “nasty, cowardly political maneuvering.”

But with public enthusiasm toward the new party apparently waning, almost all but Ahn seem to be inclined toward Kim’s call for opposition unity. This sentiment in the People’s Party is stronger among candidates who face uphill fights against ruling party candidates. 

It is understandable that the leaders and candidates of the People’s Party, as well as those of the Minjoo Party, are worried about splitting opposition votes. But those who have said they support Ahn’s cause should clarify at least where their pledge to build a new politics and a solid third party have gone.
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