General

(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on May 14)

Lawmaker-elect Choo Mi-ae will mostly likely be the speaker of the first half of the four-year 22nd National Assembly, which will open on May 30, after her two rivals in the majority Democratic Party (DP) gave up their candidacy for the top post in the legislature. Despite her remaining contest with former DP floor leader Woo Won-shik, she will surely be elected speaker of the legislature thanks to fervent support from legislators loyal to DP leader Lee Jae-myung. If she wins the nominal race, Choo, a six-term lawmaker, will be the first female politician to take up the position.

But if Choo is elected speaker even without a heated internal competition – and only backed by pro-Lee lawmakers and his hardcore supporters – the election process represents a serious crisis of democracy, as it critically damages the neutrality of the speaker of the parliament.

Rep. Choo has the undisputed record of denying the independence of the speaker. She even ridiculed past DP speakers pretending to be neutral with no loyal
ty to the party. Pro-Lee lawmakers will welcome the insults she hurled at former speakers from the DP whenever they delayed putting controversial bills to a vote, citing their obligation to maintain neutrality.

If such a politician is elected speaker, the majority party can easily pass any contested bills, which will be vetoed by the president later. Political pundits attribute Choo’s rise to the DP leader’s need to dilute the burden from his own judicial risks by nominating the hardline politician as the speaker.

The DP also chose Rep. Park Chan-dae – a three-term lawmaker close to Lee Jae-myung – as its floor leader over other candidates even without staging a race. Such a biased selection of floor leader is the first time in 19 years. The DP cannot avoid criticism for returning to the authoritarian days, when the party head appointed the floor leader.

That’s not all. DP leader Lee Jae-myung will likely extend his two-year term in the party’s election in July. Senior lawmaker Jung Chung-rae is on a crusa
de to place Lee on the top party post again without holding an election. The developments in the DP show all party affairs are being decided by Lee’s loyalists after he led the party’s landslide victory in the April 10 parliamentary elections. We cannot but ask if the principle of democracy really works in the Democratic Party.

The 30 percent approval rating of the DP is nearly on par with that of the governing People Power Party (PPP). In other words, the DP won the last election thanks to voters’ disappointment with the PPP, not due to the DP’s popularity. If the DP does not abandon its arrogance, voters will turn their backs on the party.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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