|Chung Mong-joon (left) and Kim Hwang-sik|
The ruling Saenuri Party’s primary election for Seoul mayoral candidacy appears likely to be a three-way battle among heavyweights, with a former prime minister and a potential presidential candidate entering the fray.
In addition to Saenuri Party supreme council member Lee Hye-hoon, former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and Rep. Chung Mong-joon are said to have set their sights on the Seoul mayor’s job.
Although Kim and Chung have been linked to the mayoral election for some time, both had repeatedly said that they had no intention to run, with Chung only recently changing his tune.
Kim is expected to make his position clear to Saenuri Party chairman Rep. Hwang Woo-yea in a private meeting. The timing of the meeting is uncertain, but observers say that it is imminent, with Hwang saying only that he will meet Kim “at any time.”
Although the meeting was initially reported to be set for Thursday, Hwang implied that the timing was flexible, stating that Kim’s schedule appears to be full.
While Hwang said little about the issue, other party officials appeared to view the matter as settled.
“The Saenuri Party’s Seoul mayoral candidacy primary election is likely to be a big three-way match,” Saenuri Party deputy floor leader Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun said at Thursday’s supreme council meeting.
As for Chung, he is a veteran politician who once led the conservative party. He is also one of only two incumbent lawmakers to have held a parliamentary seat for seven terms.
Despite his earlier denials, Chung hinted at a change of heart on Wednesday after meeting with Hwang.
“If it is deemed that there are things that can be done for Seoul citizens and the party, (I) will (run for Seoul mayor),” Chung told reporters after the meeting.
With incumbent Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon showing a firm lead, the ruling party has been scrambling for a candidate with the clout to match Park.
According to recent polls, Park has about a 10 percentage point lead over Kim and Chung.
However, the situation remains fluid, with Park’s support rating dropping when a candidate backed by independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo is included in the picture.
As such, talk of an alliance between opposition parties is mounting.
While Ahn has ruled out the possibility of forming an alliance specifically for the June 4 local elections, main opposition Democratic Party officials appear to be seeking one.
While staying short of naming Ahn, DP floor leader Rep. Jun Byung-hun on Thursday called for all those who oppose the ruling party and the Park Geun-hye administration to cooperate in “keeping the ruling party and the uncommunicative power in check.”
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com)