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Opposition gaining ground, Ahn still ahead of Park: polls

(Yonhap News)
(Yonhap News)
The ruling Grand National Party appears to be facing tough election odds in the parliamentary vote in April.

According to polls released Monday, the liberal opposition is gaining ground on the back of strong anti-incumbent sentiment. The polls also found that Ahn Cheol-soo, a software mogul rumored to be harboring presidential ambitions, is ahead of GNP chief Park Geun-hye in a race for the next presidency.

Several media outlets released the results of their respective surveys, all conducted by local pollsters, as the country’s rival political forces started a 100-day countdown to the April 11 general elections. The upcoming vote is widely expected to affect the race for the presidential office later in the year.

According to the Chosun Ilbo, the country’s largest vernacular daily, 61 percent of voters who participated in its survey said they would vote against incumbents. It said the figure almost doubled from four years ago.

Some 34.9 percent said they support the largest opposition Democratic Unified Party, compared to the GNP’s 32.7 percent.

Another survey conducted by TV channel SBS also pointed to the anti-incumbent mood.

Only 28.3 percent of voters polled said their own representative deserved re-election, while 47.8 percent said they did not. Three months ago, less than 40 percent had said they would vote against incumbents.

The GNP was still ahead of the DUP, garnering support from 31.8 percent of the respondents, compared to the opposition party’s 28.6 percent. However, more said they would vote for a candidate representing the opposition group in case of a one-on-one showdown between GNP and DUP candidates.

“The opposition appears to be benefiting from a strong public disapproval of the incumbent administration and the ruling party,” said Lee Chan-bok, head of research at TNS Korea, which conducted the survey.

Turning to the presidential race, the polls gave Ahn a lead of between 5.5 percentage points to 9.5 percentage points over Park, the GNP chairwoman and strongest presidential candidate.

Ahn, who currently teaches at a graduate school of Seoul National University, hasn’t said whether he will run in the Dec. 19 presidential election. He has no political affiliation yet, but is considered to be a potential candidate leaning toward the liberal opposition.

Many GNP members fear that they will lose its majority status in the unicameral parliament and allow liberals to take over the presidency, if they fail to win back the hearts of voters in the general elections. The party has shifted into an emergency mode later last year, appointing Park as its chief and forming a leadership council with non-party figures and reformist lawmaker.

“It may be wiser to gracefully announce a no-run in the April election,” Chosun quoted a first-term GNP lawmaker as saying. Scores of GNP legislators had said they would not seek re-election, saying they will sacrifice to enable the embattled party a fresh start with new faces.

By Lee Sun-young (