|With political focus rapidly shifting from parliamentary to presidential election here, the public’s eyes are on one “potential” candidate. He often tops opinion polls on presidential hopefuls, but has not even jumped into real politics formally. It is small surprise then that a local daily’s report on Ahn Cheol-soo’s decision to run in the December election jolted the political community and even the stock market.
The reliability of the report notwithstanding, it is high time that voters knew the real intention of the “virtual” politician. The medical doctor-turned-IT guru-turned-college dean should come forth and make public his future plans.
If Ahn, 50, often called the mentor or “soother” of depressed, alienated youngsters, decides to enter the presidential fray, he is certain to sweep support from young voters increasingly conscious of politics. The soft-spoken, unassuming Ahn demonstrated his power in Seoul mayoral elections last year by swelling the approval rate of an independent candidate from 5 percent to 50 percent in a short time and sending him to City Hall’s highest office.
It is an open question whether such magic would work in a presidential election, too. Before that, Ahn must throw away the veil, and use more direct, clear expressions instead of vague, mystic phrases. He used to say, “A presidential candidacy is not my choice, but something given to me.” Candidacy can be given but presidency won’t be given gratis.
Ahn’s ambiguity may reflect his cautious character or mystic marketing, but too much of it will not only lead to lost timing but also make voters feel tired and irritable.
The potential third-party candidate has long maintained he would not bury himself into ideology-driven politics, hinting that he would form his own political entity, if not a party, to realize his foremost values as equity, fairness and justice. What matters are specific policies and detailed programs to turn this value system into reality, and the ability to implement them while competing with rivals with different priorities. If his goal is to improve society rather than change the nation, there are other ways.
Ahn and those surrounding him are reportedly trying to benchmark the case of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who snatched the presidency by weighing long between competing political camps and taking up one at the final moment. If he follows Ike’s footsteps, the “star-less” liberal opposition party could be his choice, as the conservative ruling party has all but decided on its standard-bearer, Park Geun-hye, the election queen.
Whether he joins the opposition liberals or runs independently, Cheong Wa Dae should not be his only destination.
Considering voters, young or old, seem to largely sympathize with the values Ahn seeks to pursue and the direction he follows, it is his duty to sum this up into one strong catchphrase, such as “chaebol reform,” changing the nation’s sprawling family-controlled conglomerates in the most effective but less radical ways.
If only he can make the rivals reflect his primary pledge on their policies, Ahn will have made great contribution to the nation’s politics even if he ends up as just the Korean version of Ross Perot.
4월 18일 (수) The Korea Times 사설