Liberal-minded independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo raced ahead of the ruling party’s Park Geun-hye in a public poll released Friday, after announcing his much anticipated bid earlier this week.
According to pollster Realmeter, Ahn increased his lead over the Saenuri Party candidate to 49.9 percent versus 44 percent in a hypothetical two-way matchup.
Ahn’s poll numbers also soared in a hypothetical three-way race including Rep. Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party. The gap between Ahn and Park narrowed to a mere 3.3 percent, while Moon’s numbers dropped below 20 percent.
The political rookie appears to be raking in the support of indecisive neutral voters, as well as those who formerly backed Rep. Moon, political observers said.
The increased popularity is a boost to Ahn’s political posturing against Moon, amid calls from liberal voters for them to unify candidacy in order to stop conservatives from continuing their reign.
Ahn, the founder of Korea’s largest anti-virus software firm, AhnLab, threw his hat into the ring Wednesday, ending months of speculation and posing a serious challenge to the conservative Saenuri Party candidate.
He also suggested his rivals to hold a three-party gathering before the upcoming Chuseok holidays.
“In order to achieve true social unity, the candidates should win the public’s trust during the election campaign period by playing a fair game and communicating with one another,” he said on Friday.
“Fortunately, the two candidates have shown positive response to my idea.”
On Ahn’s soaring popularity, the right-wing camp maintained composure and shrugged off any anxiety.
“The uptrend in Moon and Ahn’s pools is a temporary phenomenon, following the candidacy announcement,” said supreme councilor Rep. Chung Woo-taik in a radio interview on Friday.
“What counts is the sustainability of the support rates.”
Park has long maintained her lead in polls, and Moon and Ahn may falter once the actual race begins, Chung said.
Rep. Park is scheduled to pay a visit to Busan on Monday.
The southern city is expected to become a contentious battleground as it has long been a right-wing stronghold but is also the home city of the two left-wing contestants Moon and Ahn.
Observers speculated that the daughter of iron-fisted military ruler Park Chung-hee may revise her disputed historical perspective during the trip in order to maintain her poll standings.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)