It is not rare for presidential candidates to unify their candidacies to strengthen chances of victory or catch up with stronger rivals. There is less possibility of this happening in this election, however, as all the major five candidates reject the idea.
But it does not mean that they are shunning efforts to broaden their support base. This time, candidates put forward “cooperative governance” as a means to attract voters beyond their turf.
Leading candidates now say that if elected, they will depart from the past “winner-takes-all” approach and some even pledge to share power with opposition parties. The most drastic proposal is allocating some Cabinet posts to opposition parties.
Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party is more proactive in promoting the scheme of “cooperative governance” than other candidates. Ahn, who had already rejected any possibility of unifying his candidacy with other candidates, is all the more keen on the proposal because the popularity gap between himself and the front-runner Moon Jae-in is widening.
Ahn’s proposal is more specific than those of other candidates. He said his coalition government would comprise all political forces, except those who opposed the impeachment of Park Geun-hye and those who holds on to pursuit of hegemonic power -- a reference to Moon and his followers. The proposal, which is tantamount to one for a coalition government, is apparently aimed at drawing voters both from moderate conservative and liberal blocs.
Ahn said his “Coalition Government for Reform” could leave the right to nominate the prime minister to the National Assembly. He also suggested that if elected, he will take good parts of election pledges made by his rival candidates.
Moon’s Democratic Party also has formed a “committee for integrated government” which party officials said will work out specific programs to select senior administration officials beyond partisan lines. But Moon focuses more on a government transcending regional, generational and other social barriers than on one representing various political forces.
In relation, Moon said that, if elected, he will nominate as prime minister a person from the southwestern part of the country, which is usually antagonistic against politicians from the southeastern region from which he hails.
This too, of course, is part of the Moon campaign’s election strategy to bolster support from the southwestern provinces, where his Democratic Party has lost much of its clout to Ahn’s People’s Party.
As a matter of fact, the recent decline of Ahn’s ratings - his second place is now threatened by hardline conservative Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberal Korea Party - is attributed to the desertion of voters in the southwestern provinces and hardcore conservative voters.
Whatever motives candidates have, it is good for the candidates to promise to seek a government pursuing collaboration among various political forces and social groups. It is good all the more because the already serious ideological and regional divide in the country had been deepened further by the recent political turmoil that ended up in Park’s removal from office.
And as things stand, any next ruling party will not be able to control the National Assembly alone.
Moreover, the next president, being elected in unusual circumstances, will take office without the traditional two-month transition period, which means he cannot afford a delay in the appointment of key administration officials that require parliamentary endorsement.
It is against this backdrop that there are growing calls for candidates to make public in advance the names of their potential nominees for posts like prime minister, key Cabinet members and senior presidential staff.
Doing so would help prevent whoever wins the election from going back on his word on cooperative governance and fill key administration posts only with close or loyal to him.
The election is now seven days away. Before making up their minds, voters have the right to demand that whether and how candidates will make the next government different from past ones.