By Kang Hyun-kyung
Some lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties threatened Tuesday to take united action in the wake of their parties’ decision to eliminate them from candidate selection for the April 11 National Assembly elections.
Rep. Shin Ji-ho of the Saenuri Party also urged the leadership to disclose documents that its Selection Committee used to select candidates a day ago.
Shin’s electoral district was chosen as a strategic one, meaning he was not selected and the party leadership will pick a candidate directly without holding a primary.
If the leadership doesn’t make public the documents, he said he would consult with fellow lawmakers who were not selected to discuss how to react.
Shin warned that he could join forces with them to form a coalition of independent candidates in the elections or join a new party to seek reelection.
Rep. Kang Bong-kyun of the main opposition Democratic United Party, who failed to get the party ticket, also said he would seek a coalition with other incumbents who were eliminated in candidate selection.
“As a first step, I will hold discussions with incumbents who had previously served as ranking government officials,’’ said Kang who also worked as deputy prime minister-finance minister in the former President Kim Dae-jung administration.
Rep. Lee Jae-oh of the Saenuri Party also demanded the party leadership disclose its selection process. Lee, considered the right-hand man of President Lee Myung-bak, was selected to run, but his move apparently came in line with those of his colleagues who failed to earn the party ticket.
Of the 16 incumbents who were eliminated in the selection announced Monday, 13 are regarded as followers of President Lee.
Kim Hyun-chul, a son of former President Kim Young-sam, criticized Rep. Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party for “political retaliation” after he was eliminated in the selection of candidate to run in the Geoje district in South Gyeongsang Province.
During a news conference, Kim, vice president of the ruling party’s think tank, the Youido Institute, announced he would leave the party and run in the election as an independent.
On Monday, Park Se-il, founder of the center-right Korea Vision Party (K Party), said he would welcome anyone who was willing to join it if he or she shared the values of the party.
However, analysts were skeptical as to whether the new party will be able win parliamentary seats in the elections even if several sitting lawmakers join it.
Bae Jong-chan, a political analyst of the polling agency Research & Research, said widespread political apathy among voters will make it difficult for the K Party to secure seats in the elections.
Citing poll results, he said four out of 10 voters responded they have no party to support. “Voters are sick and tired of old politics and this paved the way for their distrust of existing parties,” he said.
“I think independent candidates will challenge the two-way race between Saenuri and DUP once campaigns start. Their joining the race will pose a threat to existing parties.”
Campaign watchers share the view that existing parties will be hurt if those who were eliminated in the selections seek reelection as independents. But analysts expressed slightly different views about their chances of winning the races.
Yoon Hee-woong, a senior analyst with the polling agency Korea Society Opinion Institute, remained dubious about a strong showing by independent candidates.
He said their chances were low under the current election system where only one representative is chosen in an electoral district.
“Having said that, the 2008 National Assembly elections were exceptional as scores of independent candidates were elected at that time. The strong showing of independents was possible back then for several reasons,” Yoon said.
“At that time Rep. Park Geun-hye, who has a strong support base in the ruling party stronghold, was seen as a victim as many of her aides and confidants were eliminated. Her aides managed to enter the National Assembly after winning the elections as voters in their home turf sympathized with and consequently cast their ballots for them.”
But no such compassion for those who were eliminated in the selections exists now as many of them are aides to unpopular President Lee Myung-bak, Yoon said.
The expert also predicted that voters will likely cast their ballots for candidates from established parties with viable presidential hopefuls as the parliamentary elections is in the same year as the presidential poll slated for December.