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Destructive division in conservative camp

Posted February. 24, 2012 23:57,   


The progressive Democratic Labor Party, minor People Participation Party, and the New United Progressive Alliance merged Dec. 6 last year to form the United Progressive Party. Ten days later, the Democratic Party, the pro-Roh Moo-hyun Citizens’ Unity Party, and several civic and labor groups teamed up to establish the main opposition Democratic United Party. These represent two small examples of integration of the left-leaning progressive camp. They are coordinating party principles and policy platforms in their aggressive push to form a coalition ahead of the April 11 general elections. The progressive camp secured victory in the Seoul mayoral by-election in October last year due to a successful coalition. The saying "Right-wing conservative forces collapse due to corruption and left-leaning progressive forces fail due to division" is poised to become invalid.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Doo-kwan recently joined the Democratic United Party to forge an election coalition. Nine of the country`s 16 mayors and governors are affiliated with the party. Among the central government, National Assembly and provincial governments, the latter group is the first to be taken over by progressive forces. In contrast, the conservative camp has been further split to spawn the K Party beyond the divide into the ruling Saenuri Party and the minor Liberty Forward Party. Saenuri, which is conducting the candidate nomination process for the April elections, is also facing a complicated and chaotic internal situation. As the party has effectively become the domain of acting chairwoman Park Geun-hye, an intense internal confrontation between the faction supporting her and one backing President Lee Myung-bak has erupted.

The general elections could turn into a fierce battle between conservative candidates depending on the results of nominations. Considering opinion polls, the Democratic United Party alone, even without unification of progressive forces, is set to defeat Saenuri in the general elections. If progressives form an election coalition while conservatives remain divided, the latter is doomed to lose the elections. As evidenced by the integration of three parties in 1990 and the coalition of the Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil factions in 1997, past experience suggest that neither conservative nor progressive groups can individually take power without forming a coalition. Liberty Forward Party founder Lee Hoi-chang lost in the presidential election twice because he failed to overcome the right-wing divide.

Saenuri and Liberty Forward are reportedly seeking to form a coalition. Park Geun-hye and K Party Chairman Park Se-il also held a closed meeting Thursday. In a forum with the Korea Broadcasting Journalists’ Club Monday, Park Geun-hye commented on a proposed coalition of conservative groups for the general elections. “If a party holds the same values and orientation, we are open to partnering, and forming a partnership is desirable.” Yet chances appear slim that they will form a coalition.

Only after conservative groups shed their greedy attitude of "keeping their individual interests" can they establish a grand vision to protect conservative values to counter left-leaning forces. Whether conservative groups can form a coalition or unite beyond the ruling party’s reform depends on acting chairwoman Park’s commitment and capacity.