(From left) Park Geun-hye, Ahn Cheol-soo (Yonhap News)
Former GNP chairwoman has upper hand in her home turf in southeast
Rep. Park Geun-hye of the Grand National Party appeared to have gained a narrow lead over Ahn Cheol-soo in polls on next year’s potential presidential candidates.
In a survey conducted Tuesday by the Chosun Ilbo on 1,000 citizens nationwide, the former GNP chairwoman was supported by 45.2 percent, beating Ahn, an entrepreneur turned Seoul National University professor, by 4 percent.
Shortly after Ahn announced that he would not run for Seoul mayor in the upcoming by-election, his support rate temporarily soared above that of Park, raising speculation that he could shake up next year’s presidential race. Ahn, however, has insisted he will not run for president.
Another survey by the Seoul Shinmun on 2,029 citizens showed similar results, showing 46.1 percent for Park and 44.3 percent for Ahn.
In a survey by the Kookmin Ilbo, Park widened the gap with Ahn to 9.7 percent, winning 49.8 percent of the vote.
She was particularly strong in the Gyeongsang provinces, which have traditionally favored the conservative party.
Ahn was preferred by younger voters in Seoul and Jeolla provinces.
“Ahn’s name was not mentioned often in people’s conversations during the Chuseok holidays,” said Rep. Lee Ju-young, GNP’s policy committee chairman, whose constituency is Masan, South Gyeongsang Province. “The so-called Ahn syndrome is most likely to fade away, especially if the political circles make efforts to meet the people’s demands.”
While Park gradually seemed to regain frontrunner status, many also pointed out that Ahn, despite his reputation, is not yet ready to take the state leader’s seat.
In the Chosun Ilbo survey, 46.6 percent of the respondents answered that Ahn’s critical flaw was his lack of experience in state affairs.
As if in response to the public opinion, Park underlined her catchphrase, “Happiness for the people” on her official webpage, shortly before the holidays.
Though Park has long been regarded as the top frontrunner in next year’s presidential election, her opponents criticized her for being indecisive and lacking detailed policies.
“This may be a major turning point for Rep. Park,” said Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, GNP’s floor leader.
“She is now to display to the public her political vision, especially concerning economic issues, in order to stand out.”
Park herself also admitted the significance of Ahn’s sudden rise.
“We should pay attention to public opinion as reflected in the recent series of events and move forward,” Park told reporters last week, the day after Ahn said he would not run for mayor.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org