The ruling Grand National Party is set to hold its national convention in late June or early July, a year earlier than previously scheduled, to pick new leaders as the party chiefs said they would resign to take responsibility for the electoral defeat Wednesday.
The reorganization of the GNP leadership is to be in gear with the planned reshuffle of Cabinet ministers and presidential aides.
President Lee Myung-bak may replace some of his top aides depending on how serious the ruling bloc sees the situation ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections next year. Lee has reportedly told his secretaries to prepare to leave next month if they plan to run in the parliamentary elections next year.
The GNP will organize an ad hoc panel to prepare for the caucus and “reform the party,” a job it has always pledged to do after losing elections.
In addition to replacing the leadership, the party favored by senior citizens and conservatives plans to revise its policy directions at the caucus with voters in their 30s and 40s in mind.
There have been voices within the party that it should work harder to win the trust of those in their 30s and 40s that it can really do more to make their lives better despite widening income gaps, instead of just emphasizing competition and free market principles.
The GNP said it will hold an internal race and debate sessions to select its next floor leader on May 6.
The selection of a new floor leader signifies the beginning of the party’s reform and signals the confrontations between the pro-Lee majority and smaller factions. Former GNP chairwoman Rep. Park Geun-hye, currently the party’s strongest presidential hopeful, leads a faction of about 60 lawmakers who support her more than the president.
The humiliating by-election defeat in the GNP’s stronghold of Bundang has shocked the party enough to overhaul itself, but Cheong Wa Dae and the pro-Lee majority still hold the key to the selection of a new leadership.
GNP chairman Ahn Sang-soo, who announced his resignation Thursday, was supported by the president and the party’s pro-Lee majority.
President Lee’s kingmaker and minister of special affairs Lee Jae-oh, a senior politician holding the pro-Lee majority together, reportedly backs floor leader Kim Moo-sung as the new chief of the GNP.
Lee expects Kim, who was previously pro-Park, to play a key role in helping the pro-Lee and pro-Park members communicate better ahead of party nominations of candidates to run in the general elections in April next year.
Senior legislators such as Rep. Chung Mong-joon, Hong Joon-pyo, Ahn Kyung-ryul and Chung Doo-un have voiced the need to have Park Geun-hye take the helm.
“Former chairperson Park is our party’s valuable asset,” Ahn, a key member of the pro-Lee majority, said in a radio interview Friday.
“We have neared a time when she has to go out in the forefront.”
But some say the calls for Park to take lead may be a temporary gesture to ease public disfavor of the deep-running intra-party conflict.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org