Ha Tae-keung, co-chairman of the recently launched New Conservative Party, said Monday his party would discuss integrating with the main right-wing opposition Liberty Korea Party.
Ha said Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn and its supreme council effectively accepted “three principles” demanded by the New Conservative Party.
Hours earlier, Hwang said the new party’s demands were reflected in the six principles set by the solidarity of right-wing civic groups and political parties including the Liberty Korea Party for the integration of conservatives and centrists.
The New Conservative Party had demanded Hwang officially declare that the Liberty Korea Party will accept its three principles. They call for it to “cross the river of controversies over the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, seek an innovative conservatism and demolish an old house and build a new one.”
The principle of “crossing the river of impeachment controversies” is taken to mean that the Liberty Korea Party must not raise issues with Park’s impeachment. New Conservative Party lawmakers voted to impeach Park and then left the Liberty Korea Party.
Hwang’s remarks, though not in the form of an official declaration, are construed to indicate that the main right-wing party accepted the new party’s demands indirectly through the agreement reached by solidarity. The two parties are set to speed up discussions on their integration.
Conservative opposition parties have been in disarray after the inauguration of President Moon Jae-in’s administration. They failed to put the brakes on the leftist ruling camp which pushed Moon’s policies almost one-sidedly.
The ruling party formed a collusive “four plus one group” with minor parties and pushed through three fast-tracked bills over Liberty Korea Party’s violent opposition amid concerns the laws could be abused to extend its rule. The parties rammed through a bill to change election rules to the advantage of minor parties. In return, the minor parties voted for a bill to establish an investigation agency targeting high-ranking public officials including prosecutors and judges. On Monday, they passed a bill that will weaken the power of the prosecution and strengthen that of the police.
The new justice minister replaced the prosecutor general’s key aides who were in charge of investigating corruption and election-meddling allegations involving Moon’s cronies. The new investigation agency, if launched in July, will likely take over all of the investigations into figures close to Moon from the prosecution and ground the probes. The president and the ruling party are feared to be more dogmatic.
In this situation, efforts to reconstruct the crumbling conservative camp are encouraging. The buildup of conservative opposition is necessary to check the president and the ruling party properly. Check and balance is a key cornerstone of democracy.
However, discussions on integration are expected to have a rough sailing, particularly over Park’s impeachment. Some Liberty Korea Party lawmakers, who opposed the impeachment, say that they cannot go together with those who voted to impeach her, including New Conservative Party lawmakers. Negotiations over candidate nomination will be a hot potato.
Nevertheless, efforts to integrate conservatives and centrists must continue for the sake of a sound democracy. Division and conflicts will likely divide voters. If the conservative parties fight over past issues, their integration may go down the drain.
Nothing looks more urgent than integration to meet the expectations of voters who want conservatives to check the ruling camp from being dogmatic.
The parties must refrain from demands that may instigate internal strife. They must bury the hatchet over the impeachment issue and overcome differences over candidate nomination. If need be, they should shelve the debate on long-term ideological visions until after integration. The unity of the conservative bloc is a prerequisite to achieving the cause of preventing the nation from slanting further left. If the conservative parties fight with each other out of selfish motives, people will look away from the entire right-wing camp.
The general election is just three months away. Integration is the first gate for the conservative right to pass in order to stand. Divided, it will fall.