The recent massive defections from the Bareun Party have emerged as a major factor in the presidential race of the conservative camp.
On Tuesday, 13 lawmakers of the party declared they would support presidential candidate Hong Joon-pyo and defected to the Liberty Korea Party. They cited as the reason that Yoo Seong-min, presidential candidate of the Bareun Party, had rejected their demands that he make way for the conservative bloc to field a single candidate.
Their defections were an inevitable choice if they wanted to block liberal leftists soft on North Korea from taking power, they said. In other words, they turned to Hong to stop front-runner Moon Jae-jin of the Democratic Party of Korea from winning the election, as Hong has been far ahead of Yoo in support.
However, Liberty Korea Party lawmakers who they had criticized as being incompetent loyalists to former President Park Geun-hye opposed their return, putting the matter on hold until after the presidential election. One of the 13 lawmakers withdrew his defection Wednesday.
It is understandable that they are worried about the slim chance of Yoo winning the election and the division of conservative votes.
Yet their defections appear to be a betrayal of Yoo and collusion with Hong. They have thrown away their political credos because their election prospects changed.
The Bareun Party was launched by lawmakers of the Saenuri Party who were critical of the pro-Park faction. They split from the party as it refused to expel Park loyalists.
The Bareun Party had vowed to overcome pro-Park hegemony, which it said spoiled the Saenuri Party, and sought to rebuild a true conservative regime. Despite these claims, 12 lawmakers went back to the party from which they had bolted, as Yoo has trailed Hong in support. They would not have left the Bareun Party if Yoo had stayed ahead of Hong.
Little has changed in the Liberty Korea Party. It still has the pro-Park lawmakers whom they had condemned. Their return to the party seems reckless.
On the surface, they left the Bareun Party to block Moon from taking power. But they should pay more attention to the mayoral and gubernatorial elections next year and the parliamentary elections in 2020. If they stay in the Bareun Party, they will likely see Yoo lose the election and face grim prospects of winning in local and general elections.
Launching and developing a new party and new politics requires a lot of dedication and sacrifices.
It is undemocratic and unfair to elect a presidential nominee and then pressure him to drop out midway in the race because of low support ratings.
Their short-sighted defections will be recorded as a stain in Korean conservative politics. Winning elections is imperative to parties and politicians, but a long-term perspective is needed to organize the nation’s conservative forces, which have become disjointed in the process of Park’s impeachment.
What the people want from conservative politicians are a sense of responsibility, devotion to principles and prudent behavior. Keeping on the right path despite difficulties could earn them support from undecided conservatives.
It is well-known that conservative politics are in crisis here. Polls have shown the presidential contest tilting in favor of liberal leftists, with conservative voters wavering among Moon’s rivals.
Conservatism is one of two cornerstones that buttress a society along with liberalism. The fall of conservatism would hurt the sound development of politics.
The nation needs to reconstruct its conservatism.
Now it is up to the 20 remaining lawmakers of the Bareun Party to blaze a trail with the rational conservatism they claim to advocate.
The party could win the hearts of conservative voters if it clarifies and defends reformative values and policies.
That is the spirit of the Bareun Party and a way for it to rebuild conservatism and survive.