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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 18)

2017/04/18 07:08

New conservatives' choice

Let's put on ice identity politics, ideology voting on May 9

A 22-day official campaign period has just begun for the May 9 presidential election.

Currently, the election is shaping up to be a liberal against liberal contest. Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea is the frontrunner, leading Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party.

Candidates from two split parties from the former conservative Saenuri Party -- Hong Joon-pyo and Yoo Seung-min -- show popularity in single digits. Shim Sang-jung of the pro-union Justice Party, has no real shot at the presidency; neither do 10 other candidates with little of a party platform.

The irony is that there are no viable conservative candidates in the field but it will be conservative voters who will most likely decide the winner. Moon's lead over Ahn is in and out of the margin of error.

One pithy election saying goes that if conservatives vote for Hong, Moon would get elected. This explains that despite his progressive affiliation, Ahn, a former businessman, can be more accommodating to conservative values than Moon can.

Amid the impeachment brouhaha triggered by the revelation of Park Geun-hye's misrule, conservatives have been disillusioned, their ideology tarnished and their subscribers reduced. Now, they are coming back as the election is approaching.

At this juncture, conservatives should remind themselves of two things.

First, Park was a conservative candidate and owed her election to the outpouring of their support. There were other contributing factors _ for instance, voters' nostalgia for development under the dictatorship of Park Chung-hee, the father of the disgraced head of state.

Then, Park made short work of her presidency and caused the nation a great deal of trouble that has forced a premature election, nearly eight months ahead of schedule.

Once elected president, the candidate is supposed to be the president for the entire nation irrespective of ideology, party affiliation and other factors. There is no precedent for the voters to be held responsible for what turns out to be their wrong or right choice. After all, it is voters who eventually pay for anything that goes wrong.

That has been conventional wisdom. But the nation has just brought down a corrupt leader and it is still in the middle of a crisis. Those who supported this failed leader should feel moral responsibility.

For this, it is time for conservatives as swing voters to set aside all trappings of partisan politics such as identity, strategic voting and visceral dislike or a blind preference for a candidate. Rather, they should pay attention to what the candidates' governance agendas are all about and decide who to vote for.

This will produce a clean slate that the nation needs to start a new cycle of politics. We need a leader who is selected by this process more than ever before.

(END)

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