Primary debate begins in ruling party
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Debate within the ruling Saenuri Party over who can vote in a primary to select a presidential candidate is set to begin, now that Hwang Woo-yea, a former aide to Park Geun-hye, has taken office as party chairman.
Speaking at the first meeting with newly-elected Supreme Council members, Hwang emphasized that he will prioritize launching a task force committee to decide how the primary should be managed as soon as possible.
The five-term lawmaker said his ultimate goal is to build a solid system to help a candidate to win the presidential election in December.
Members of the decision-making Supreme Council exchanged views over what regulations should be established because there are sharp differences of opinion between Park Geun-hye, who some say is the unrivaled hopeful candidate, and other presidential bidders.
Under current rules, the ruling party selects presidential candidates by counting the combined votes of party delegates, grass-roots members and public opinion surveys. Those who support an open primary calculated that the presidential hopefuls have a relatively weak power base in the party with more chances of winning if only non-partisan members are allowed to vote.
Rep. Chung Mong-joon supports an open primary that will allow non-party members to pick a presidential candidate for the Saenuri Party ticket. All candidates, except Park Geun-hye, agree with Chung.
A former chairwoman of the ruling party, Park shows no signs of altering her view on the rules.
During the Wednesday meeting, Rep. Shim Jae-chul, the only Supreme Council member who is not close to Park, proposed open discussion about the rule’s of the primary.
Shim raised issue with Hwang’s remarks in an interview after winning the leadership race to back his suggestion. “The new chairman didn’t confirm whether or not the ruling party will change or stick with the current primary rules by focusing his hope that ruling party members will discuss the matter,” Shim said.
“I would like to propose that the ruling party begin reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the open primary as there are supporters of it from within.”
The lawmaker’s proposal met with skepticism from other Supreme Council members close to Park.
Rep. Chung Woo-taik countered Shim’s suggestion, saying a review of the open primary is not in the interest of the conservative party. Other Park aides sided with Chung, voicing concern about an open primary.
The additional presidential bidders and their aides revealed discontent about this.
Aides of Reps. Chung Mong-joon and Lee Jae-oh urged the ruling party to have open discussion about the open primary.
As Park and rest of the presidential hopefuls are deeply divided over the primary rules, the two sides are inevitably set to clash in future debates.