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Unite and move forward

May 08,2017
Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party (DP), who has a comfortable lead over the other candidates pledged to create a “dream” administration team by recruiting people from both the liberal and conservative front. Whoever wins, the next president will face an opposition-led legislative. The DP commands the largest portion, but its 120 seats fall far short of the 180–vote threshold needed to pass a bill. Bipartisanship will be a necessity, not a choice. Other candidates Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party and Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberal Korea Party also made similar promises.

The DP remained uncooperative throughout the former administration. It did not need to pitch a coalition or partnership when the public’s opinion decisively turned favorable for the liberals after the conservative president was ousted. Just days before Election Day, Moon pledged to recruit members of his cabinet without regard for their party affiliation.

His pitch is suspected to be aimed at drawing undecided voters among the conservative or centrist population. After staying in the shadows as the opposition for the last decade, the party will be brimming with ambitious members that strongly oppose their chances going to outside members. Most think the coalition would stop at a few people.

But if that is the intention, Moon should seriously reconsider. Presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak struggled throughout their terms because they failed to win support from the opposition. Even with the ruling majority, President Park Geun-hye could not get much done due to legislative stalemate as her party commanded 152 seats and fell short of the necessary 180 votes.

The new administration will have a better chance to work with the National Assembly made up of multiple parties. It can form an alliance with other parties to prevail over the main opposition. But if Moon keeps to his own people after winning, he cannot expect to draw cooperation from other parties. The political stalemate could continue and weigh over his office. The early weeks are crucial for the incoming administration as it must start immediately, without a transition period.

The new administration therefore must be a coalition to unite society and move forward. It may lose some traditional supporters, but it could win over the broader population. Buddhism teaches people to leave the boat upon reaching the shore of Nirvana. One cannot expect to enter the new world if they do not desert the old boat.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 6, Page 26