(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Feb. 21

The New Reform Party (NRP) was launched to grab the moderates and swing voters disgusted by the two mainstream parties - the governing People Power Party (PPP) and the majority Democratic Party (DP) - but disbanded just 11 days after the merger of four disparate parties. The deepening suspicion over the success of the integration of the four splinter parties, including one led by Lee Jun-seok and one led by former prime minister Lee Nak-yon, was validated after their unbridgeable ideological differences finally surfaced. During Tuesday's press conference at the National Assembly, Lee Nak-yon, former co-chair of the NRP, apologized for its sudden demise. He attributed it to a critical disrespect for agreement and democratic values by Lee Jun-seok, co-chair of the reform party. "They seem to intend to break the unification or remove me from the start," Lee Nak-yon said. The head-on clash between the two chairmen originated with Lee Jun-seok's unilateral endorsement of a motion in a Supreme Council meeting on Monday to give him the full authority over nomination rights and campaign strategies, with less than two months left before the April 10 parliamentary elections. At that time, Lee Nak-yon and his allies stormed out of the room over Lee Jun-seok's domineering attitude "on par with [former general-turned-president] Chun Doo Hwan" in the 1980s. After Lee Nak-yon declared the breakup, Lee Jun-seok also apologized for his "overconfidence" in his ability to tackle tough party challenges ahead. But their conflict basically stemmed from a battle over who should control the rights to nominate candidates in the upcoming election. Looking back on the lead-up to their consolidation, the two Lees most likely joined hands to confront the two major parties' move to create their satellite parties to get more seats from the 47 proportional representatives in the 300-member legislature. The fear forced them to rush to the merger to get their fair share of the proportional seats. The two leaders seem to have been convinced of their ability to get along until election day despite their critical differences. But such a reckless merger has ended up as a "fast-forward" black comedy. The two former leaders of two mega parties didn't show any political skills until the last minute. The New Reform Party could have offered an alternative to a number of voters who were sick and tired of the two major parties' perennial battles over nearly every issue. But the short-lived drama of uniting the four incompatible parties has splashed cold water on voters' hopes for new politics. This episode will do irreparable damage to their leadership. Source: Yonhap News Agency

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