Local Politics: Koreans Revolt against Uri

Local politics has already had an important impact on the UNSG race. Sathirathai's candidacy has been stopped in its tracks by the political crisis in his home country.

No, we are not talking about the burning in the streets that will likely end the candidacy of José Ramos-Horta of East Timor, whose colleagues have started to resign, before it started. It is Ban Ki-moon of South Korean who may have domestic troubles for a little bit.

On May 31, South Koreans went to the polls in municipal elections. The ruling Uri Party, and the party of Ban Ki-moon, was crushed:

The main opposition Grand National Party won Wednesday’s nationwide local elections by a landslide, almost certainly sweeping at least 11 of 16 large city mayor and provincial governor seats except for the Jeolla provinces. Ballots counted as of midnight on Wednesday and exit polls conducted by the three major TV networks show the GNP certain to put up the mayors of Seoul and Incheon and the governor of Gyeonggi Province. The ruling Uri Party took only North Jeolla Province and was left flailing in the wake of the minor opposition Millennium Democratic Party in Gwangju and South Jeolla Province.

IHT/NYT reports identifies President Roh's tone in foreign policy as one of several reasons for the electoral collapse:

Recently, Mr. Roh struggled against criticism that his blunt rhetoric and austere demeanor had strained South Korean relations with the United States, and created a widening division over policies ranging from North Korea to housing prices.


Opposition candidates, mostly from the conservative party, also won more than 10 times as many seats as Mr. Roh's Uri Party in the races for 230 leaders of smaller administrative districts and 3,621 members of local councils.

The Korean Times mentions that some pundits predict a collapse of the Uri Party, which was founded by President Roh after his election:

Some political watchers predict the breakup of the governing Uri Party as part of the post-election political realignment. When it comes to the brief life span of Korean political parties, however, the triumphant opposition, Grand National Party (GNP), would be no exception. Except for the leftist DLP, all other parties are jumbles of centrists, center-rightists and center-leftists plus some ultra-rightists in the GNP. To survive the crisis, the Uri Party should lead a political shakeup to create ideological alliances, not regional ones.

It is, of course, too early to tell what the implications of this will be for UNSG race. Ban Ki-moon's position just got harder though. We suspect that this will put a damper on his travel schedule once he returns from Washington today.

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