Underdogs challenge Park
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Several politicians, whose support rates combined are lower than that of Park Geun-hye, are forming a collective front against her by declaring their bid to run in the Saenuri Party primary for December’s presidential election.
The contenders, including Rep. Chung Mong-joon and Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo, are dreaming of a dramatic win, which would be something like David’s victory over Goliath in the Bible when the contest, likely to be in August, is held.
They have teamed up to downplay Park’s potential by attacking the weaknesses she revealed in the April 11 National Assembly elections to discredit her.
If necessary, they might seek collaboration before the primary to defeat Park, who while not having made an official announcement is expected to run. But it’s not certain whether their possible alliance could turn out to be strong enough to threaten the head of the Saenuri Party’s interim leadership committee.
The charismatic Park was behind the election drama by helping her party garner 152 parliamentary seats out of the 300-member legislature, despite the unfavorable political landscape for the conservatives following a series of corruption scandals involving President Lee Myung-bak’s aides and relatives.
She, however, revealed her limitations in attracting voters in their 20s, 30s and 40s as they turned out to vote against the ruling party.
The Saenuri Party secured only 43 out of 112 parliamentary seats up for grabs in the greater Seoul area, believed to contain numerous swing voters, revealing another weakness.
Contenders like Kim and Chung, who have already made their presidential bid public, made a case against Park by downplaying the election victory.
They echoed that if the ruling party fails to woo younger members of society, who account for more than 50 percent of the eligible voters, the conservative party will never win the presidential race.
Yim Tae-hee, former presidential chief of staff, said the election results sent the message that the ruling party will have to work on young voters and swing voters in the greater Seoul area. Yim said he would make his presidential bid official no later than mid May.
Joining the campaign to counter Park includes other potential candidates, such as Rep. Lee Jaeoh, a confidant of President Lee Myung-bak; Ahn Sang-soo, former mayor of Incheon; and Rep. Kim Tae-ho, former governor of South Gyeongsang Province.
In an interview published in a local daily Monday, Rep. Lee said Park enjoyed an inflated reputation.
“It’s definitely great for her to pull political capital together for the victory in the parliamentary election,” he said.
Rep. Lee, who once called Park “the daughter of the dictator” for her father is the late President Park Chung-hee, called for democracy in the ruling party’s decision-making, saying it is a necessary value for the ruling party to win the presidential race.
They urged Park to change the party’s rules to select its presidential candidate through the primary. Currently the ruling party selects its candidate based on the combined results of votes cast by party members, delegates and public opinion surveys of citizens.
Reps. Chung and Lee and Governor Kim demanded the party leadership rewrite the primary rules to allow only citizens to cast their vote to select a ruling party candidate.Park, however, remains skeptical about their calls.