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Saenuri fails to break impasse over primary rules

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Published : 2012-06-18 20:24
Updated : 2012-06-18 20:24

A tug-of-war over presidential primary rules continued to rile the ruling Saenuri Party as Chairman Hwang Woo-yea failed to narrow differences in a series of intensive talks with dissenters over the weekend.

Hwang once again urged opponents Monday to deal with the proposed rules change at the Supreme Council.

“We will actively collect opinions and create a clear process of presidential election preparation in the Supreme Council,” Hwang said during a meeting of the top decision-making body.

Hwang’s comments came as his one-on-one dialogues over the weekend with some of the disgruntled presidential hopefuls failed to bear progress.

Hwang met with Rep. Lee Jae-oh on Saturday and former presidential chief-of-staff Yim Tae-hee and Gyeonggi Gov. Kim Moon-soo on Sunday in an effort to narrow differences. They, however, only reaffirmed their contrasting positions, demanding fully open primary.

The underdogs ― Lee, Kim and Rep. Chung Mong-joon in particular ― have been threatening to boycott the primary unless the rules are changed to depend entirely on the votes by non-party voters to pick the party’s presidential candidate. As part of their demands, the three also argue a separate body must be established to discuss the primary rules.

The leadership and the party’s frontrunner Park Geun-hye have been shunning the change, citing the party’s charter and risk of party raiding.

Hwang also commented that more discussion is needed as each opinion by the potential candidates differ and said there is also the option of holding a television debate to openly discuss the primary rules.
Saenuri chairman Hwang Woo-yea (center) speaks at a Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly on Monday flanked by floor leader Lee Hahn-koo (left) and supreme councilor Lee Hye-hoon. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

Former lawmaker Shin Ji-ho representing Kim Moon-soo followers, meanwhile, indicated the trio may align to back a single candidate to go up against former chairwoman Park Geun-hye.

“But even if the non-Park presidential hopefuls do align under a single candidate, they will still not join the primary unless the current rules are changed,” Shin said in a radio interview.

“(Chairman Hwang) should urge former chairwoman Park to announce her presidential bid first” before urging the others to register their candidacies, Shin added.

The Saenuri Party must pick its presidential candidate by August 21 based on the party constitution and regulations.

There have also been voices calling for rescheduling the timetable as the primary race overlaps with the London Olympics from July 29 to Aug. 12.

The main opposition Democratic United Party is reportedly planning to hold its primary around September.

There have been calls within the Saenuri that in order to prevent party raiding, the race should be conducted on the same day as the DUP, which would require revising relevant election laws.

The DUP, on the other hand, is reportedly considering a two-shot primary, by first electing its party candidate who will then vie with an external figure for final candidacy. The DUP’s plan is said to be in consideration of the possible participation by Ahn Cheol-soo, a software mogul-turned-professor and highly popular political hopeful.

According to recent polls conducted by research company Real Meter on 3,000 respondents, Park remained at the top of the ruling party candidates with 40.4 percent, compared to Kim’s 3.2 percent, Chung’s 2.1 percent and Lee’s 0.8 percent.

When asked who they would vote for in a one-on-one primary match between Park and Kim, 52.1 percent picked Park, while 28.9 percent chose Kim. In a match-up between Park and Chung, the former got 58.7 percent and the latter 23.4 percent.

Among DUP supporters, votes for Kim surpassed that of Park, with Kim winning 42.0 percent and Park gaining 27.2 percent. The respective percentages among the Saenuri supporters were reversed, with 80.7 percent voting for Park and 16.5 percent for Kim.

While pro-Park members cited the results as an indication of a potential vote raiding, non-Park members said the outcome proved the underdogs had a chance if the ballots were opened to all eligible voters.

By Lee Joo-hee (jhl@heraldcorp.com)

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