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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on March 7)

All News 07:46 March 07, 2016

Saenuri nomination row
Policies should come before factional rivalries

With the general election only weeks away, the priority for political parties is to define what voters want most from new National Assembly members and determine who is best suited when selecting candidates. But a nomination row in the ruling Saenuri Party has shown that rival factions are heading into the election with self-serving agendas, with no regard for the people's call to overhaul the dysfunctional National Assembly.

The ruling party's relentless factional feuding, coupled with the opposition bloc's merger talks, have deprived voters of a much-needed competition of policies and ideas. Ultimately, the April 13 election is at risk of being one of the most disoriented ones in recent decades.

As the ruling party, the Saenuri Party shoulders the responsibility to show exemplary leadership by picking candidates based on expertise, experience and integrity. The reality is that these core qualities have been pushed to the backburner. Instead, the nomination process has turned into a war between those loyal to President Park Geun-hye and the so-called non-Park faction led by Saenuri Party Chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung. The nomination committee is led by Lee Hahn-koo, known as a pro-Park lawmaker.

A series of scandals has hit the party ― first an alleged secret list of incumbent Saenuri Party lawmakers who will be denied nomination and the leak of an internal survey on preliminary candidates on social networks last week. The National Election Committee is investigating the leakage of the party's internal poll, which the party's think tank, the Yeouido Institute, prepared.

Two people are mainly responsible for the Saenuri Party's nomination row. The first is President Park Geun-hye, who shares a huge part of the blame for her politically biased remarks. She has openly slammed her critics such as Rep. Yoo Seong-min, former Saenuri Party floor leader, asking people to "judge those who practice the politics of betrayal." She also called on people to choose "sincere people," widely seen as an encouragement to her loyalists.

These kinds of remarks are completely inappropriate for the President to make publicly. It was recently reported that a Cheong Wa Dae official was present at a meeting with pro-Park lawmakers, who said that Yoo would be denied a nomination. If these reports are true, Cheong Wa Dae is seriously overstepping its authority.

The President and her office must stop making remarks or behaving in a way that can influence her party's nomination procedures. If not, the President will continue to divide the party. This is bad for the party and for the election.

Then there is Kim, who has shown that he has neither the intelligence, character nor the discipline to lead the ruling party. Kim should clearly explain to the people about any further irregularities and controversies regarding the nomination process.

The party leadership should keep in mind that voters want to elect someone who has a clear grasp of the problems this country is facing and who has the determination to work for the electorate with appropriate policies.

Now is the time for parties to present policies that can improve the economy and people's livelihoods. Voters expect a viable economic and welfare platform to lift Korea out of its protracted low growth, and alleviate social and economic inequalities. They also want better responses to safeguarding the nation against increasing national security threats.

The ruling party should no longer turn its back on the rightful requests of voters who want better policy alternatives on these crucial issues, and select candidates who can respond to these requests.

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