The Korea Herald


UPP scandal sways presidential race

By Korea Herald

Published : May 17, 2012 - 17:41

    • Link copied

DUP rethinks opposition alliance as Saenuri’s popularity soars

The aftereffects of the minority Unified Progressive Party’s vote-rigging scandal have started to affect the leading parties’ prospects for the year-end presidential election.

Reflecting the public’s disappointment in the left-wing, the public polls for the ruling Saenuri Party’s top contestant Rep. Park Geun-hye are once again on the upswing.

Leading figures of the main opposition Democratic United Party, on the other hand, hinted at discontinuing their alliance with the troubled progressive party to their left.

In a survey conducted by JoongAng Ilbo this week, Park was the preferred candidate of 51.9 percent of the respondents, beating potential liberal contestant professor Ahn Cheol-soo by 8.9 percent. This was a surge even compared to the 45.1 percent of the votes she enjoyed against Ahn’s 35.9 percent a month ago.

She also had a cushioned lead over the DUP’s Moon Jae-in and intra-party rivals such as Lee Jae-oh, Chung Mong-joon and Kim Moon-soo.

The former Grand National Party chairwoman, who has long been the frontrunner for the upcoming presidential race, temporarily yielded her top position earlier this year to Ahn upon reports of his anticipated political debut.

But Park soon recovered after the party won a sweeping victory in last month’s general elections, during which she displayed her leadership qualities despite gloomy expectations.

Her public image as a capable leader further soared as the UPP’s mainstream chief Lee Jung-hee lost face amid the voting scandal and the violent clashes.

Support for the Saenuri Party has also risen from 34.4 percent to 36.1 percent over the past two months, according to the daily’s polls.

The DUP, on the other hand, appeared greatly perplexed by the irregularity scandal of its election ally.

The leading liberal party has so far refrained from getting involved in the UPP’s strife but its key figures have recently started to express unease.

“I am skeptical over the need to maintain left-unity with the UPP through the December race,” said the party’s floor leader and interim chief Rep. Park Jie-won in a radio interview Thursday.

Senior adviser and presidential hopeful Sohn Hak-kyu also hinted that the DUP is set to sever its political ties with the UPP.

“The UPP strife may create general hostility against the entire liberal camp,” Sohn said Wednesday.

Some even blamed former party leader Han Myeong-sook for rashly forming an alliance with the UPP, according to party officials.

Others, however, called for composure and claimed that the political alliance must be safeguarded for the sake of the critical presidential election.

“I understand that many fear the UPP scandal may cause adverse effects for the entire left-wing,” said Woo Sang-ho, lawmaker-elect and party chief candidate.

“However, liberal unity is vital as we may not win against the Saenuri camp in one-on-one combat.”

The Saenuri Party currently holds the majority position in the 19th National Assembly, with 150 out of 300 seats, whereas the DUP only managed to win 127.

By Bae Hyun-jung (