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[Editorial] Where is Ahn headed?

Rep. Chung Mong-joon of the ruling Saenuri Party declared his bid for the presidency on Sunday. He was the second politician, after Gyeonggi Gov. Kim Moon-soo, to make public his plan to fight for the ruling party’s presidential nomination. With Kim and Chung apparently aiming to get the advantage of moving first, competition is not likely to get into full swing until after it holds a national convention on May 15 to elect its leadership.

It is the same with the main opposition Democratic United Party, where no one has yet declared his bid for presidential nomination. The issue of immediate concern at the party is not who will compete for its presidential nomination but who will take its leadership. The party is set to pick the next floor leader on Wednesday and elect its chair in a national convention scheduled for June 9.

Yet, there is much talk about the presidential election, scheduled for Dec. 19, in the rival parties. Some presidential hopefuls in the ruling party are sounding out the possibility of forging an alliance against Rep. Park Geun-hye, the undisputable frontrunner in the race for nomination.

In the opposition party, where no one has risen to national preeminence, its leading members are seriously considering persuading professor Ahn Cheol-soo of Seoul National University to join the party and compete for the party’s nomination. That is understandable, given that none of potential standard-bearers come close to Rep. Park of the ruling party in approval ratings in opinion polls.

Ahn, who gained fame first as a medical doctor-turned antivirus software program developer and later as an advocate of change in politics, has yet to make public his intention to run for the presidency. But Rep. Park Jie-won, who is running for election to the post of floor leader of the opposition party, proposes that Ahn be invited to compete for the party’s nomination.

With fewer than eight months left until the presidential election, it is about time that Ahn said in unmistakable terms whether or not he will run in the race for the presidency. Not much time is left to vet his potential capacity to lead the nation five years from February 2013. It will not suffice for him to say, as he did recently, that he would not mind being used as a political tool if it should help promote the nation’s social advancement.