|With less than 100 days to go before the Dec. 19 presidential election, voters still can’t be sure about anything. They don’t even know whether it will essentially be a two- or three-horse race. The only thing certain about the 2012 election is it will be the strangest one in history.
Liberal independent Ahn Cheol-soo will likely announce his plan to run soon but not until the main opposition party’s primaries are over in a couple of weeks. Voters will be lucky if they know whether Ahn will run or not before Chuseok, Korea’s Thanksgiving Day, on Sept. 30. If most analysts are right in predicting Ahn will eventually join the race, it is hard to tell whether the long equivocation reflects his thoughtfulness or indecision.
Even more pitiable is the indetermination of the Democratic United Party (DUP), which fluctuates between hopes and fears by every move by Ahn, who is more popular than any DUP contender, especially among young voters. Such self-degradation has made its primaries look like a play-off for a final matchup with Ahn.
We know the DUP’s ultimate aim is to retake power from the Saenuri Party, by creating a unified opposition candidate. But few still know how long that will take and in what way it will proceed. Some even predict the tug-of-war will continue near candidacy registration in late November. This means Ahn’s upcoming announcement will dissolve one ambiguity but form another for the opposition camp and voters about a united candidacy.
The oppositionists might hope to maximize the effect of a dramatic 11th-hour single candidacy as in the case of 2002 but few can say it will be easy or even possible.
All the while, the Saenuri Party candidate, Park Geun-hye, has been staging vigorous campaign activities since her nomination a month ago. The ruling camp’s problem is Park’s tenacious refusal to admit the wrongs committed during the dictatorial rule of his father-cum-role model, ex-President Park Chung-hee. One even gets the impression the disheveled opposition front has made Park overconfident, even arrogant, about her chances, rendering it unnecessary for her to compromise her political and historical views based on her father’s teachings.
To sum up, the opposition has yet to decide their horse, while the governing camp is mired in a legacy of the past.
Gone in this bizarre election season are platforms and policies. In the U.S. elections which will take place a month ahead of Korea’s, voters are demanding specific action programs, particularly from the Republican challenger. Across the Pacific, Korean voters are still in the dark on how different the policies of the DUP, more precisely those of Rep. Moon Jae-in who will likely win the primary, are from Ahn’s, or even Park’s. All candidates and potential candidates have called for greater welfare and more equitable economy but none of them have presented detailed plans.
Nor do voters know how these presidential contenders will concretely differ in coping with increasingly volatile political situations in Northeast Asia. Electing national leaders shouldn’t be simple popularity contest like auditions picking political idols. Voters deserve far better treatment than this.
9월 14일 (금) The Korea Times 사설