Saenuri chief attacks Ahn, confirms stance on candidate nominations

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 4, 2014 - 20:08
  • Updated : Feb 4, 2014 - 20:08
Saenuri Party Chairman Rep. Hwang Woo-yea delivers a speech during the extraordinary session of the National Assembly on Tuesday. (Lee Gil-dong/The Korea Herald)

Ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Rep. Hwang Woo-yea on Tuesday emphasized political reform, while effectively ruling out scrapping candidate nominations for local elections.

Although abolishing the system, which gives established parties the right to nominate candidates for all elections, was a central political reform pledge of President Park Geun-hye, the ruling party has been seeking alternatives.

Despite rumors that the party’s position would be formalized at last month’s general meeting, the issue was left hanging, with the party leaders passing it on to the special parliamentary committee on political reform.

“(I) hope a reform that goes beyond nomination abolishment is processed during the extraordinary session under an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties,” Hwang said.

Saying that abolishing the system could result in “irreversible chaos,” Hwang stated that his party has suggested a number of “fundamental alternatives” to the current local election system.

Since the beginning of the year, the Saenuri Party has suggested replacing nominations with open primary elections, and merging smaller local councils with those of metropolitan cities and provinces.

In his address, Hwang also called for cooperative ruling-opposition relations and for the establishment of a pan-party committee for developing national strategies. According to Hwang, the committee will focus on addressing issues regarding employment, North Korea and foreign policy within Northeast Asia, and a welfare system tailored to South Korea.

Hwang also launched an indirect attack on independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo and the new party he is planning.

Saying that the Saenuri Party’s creed was to “defend conservative values,” Hwang implied that Ahn lacked the grounds to launch a new party.

“Avoiding conflict in practicing politics does not fulfill the conditions of a political party. At this level, it is a matter of internal reform and does not justify the formation of a new party,” Hwang said.

He added that a new party should not be formed unless it has a clearly defined domain and policies that are easily distinguished from those of others.

“If a party is launched without meeting the conditions, that party will overlap with another, and ultimately fuel talks of mergers of parties and alliances.”

The ruling party leader also dedicated much of his speech to economic issues, including plans for supporting the government’s three-year plan to reinvigorate the economy, but only incited strong criticism from the opposition.

“Emphasizing pan-government effort and bolstering ministries’ control over issues under their control was reminiscent of the Yushin era,” DP spokesman Rep. Lee Yoon-seok said.

“If economic reform is to be conducted properly, suggesting the removal of the economic chief, who thinks the people are foolish, would have been appropriate.”

By Choi He-suk (