|New Politics Alliance for Democracy cochairmen Reps. Ahn Cheol-soo (front) and Kim Han-gil attend a meeting with supreme council members at the National Assembly on Monday. (Lee Gil-dong/The Korea Herald)|
Disputes are growing over the main opposition party’s move to set stricter requirements for candidates vying for the local elections, with critics calling it an attempt to advantage the party’s cochairman Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo’s aides.
The New Politics Alliance for Democracy said Monday that it had launched a qualification screening committee at the party’s central headquarters to prevent unqualified candidates from being nominated for the upcoming local elections. The seven-member committee, chaired by former Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae, will play a central role in verifying the candidates’ ethics and abilities, the party said.
”For some candidates, (the intensified qualification screening) will become a door narrowed. But I believe, for the people and the party, it will become a door widely open to political reform,” Chun said.
Experts say the launch of the new committee was designed to salvage its key agenda of new politics led by Ahn. But it is expected to spark strong opposition from within the new party, particularly from the hardline Pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction. They argue that the nomination reform is just a front to nominate more of Ahn’s aides for the local elections. The Pro-Roh faction has been taking up a large number of top posts at low-level administrations in the country’s southwestern region, where the party has a strong base.
“It is rare for the party’s central headquarters to intervene in the screening process for local election candidates. The plan is highly likely to be viewed as placing more of (Ahn’s) men (on nomination list),” said Oh Young-sik, cochairman of the party’s Seoul branch in an interview with Yonhap News.
Along with the launch of the new screening committee, the party is expected to announce a new set of qualification rules for candidates for local elections soon.
According to party officials, the NPAD is planning to deny nominations for candidates who have engaged in bribery, embezzlement or sexual harassment. The party was also reportedly considering whether to disqualify candidates who have relatives accused of criminal acts.
The party is also considering reviewing the performance of incumbent officials at low-level administrations to decide whether or not to give them a second chance.
“There have been a number of cases of unqualified candidates being nominated and elected,” a party official said.
“(The measures) are meant to carry out a nomination reform to eliminate unqualified candidates by the central body of the party and to meet the people’s expectations,” the official said.
The nomination reform scheme came at a time when the opposition is struggling with establishing a new political weapon to confront the ruling Saenuri Party ahead of the upcoming local elections and to salvage its main principle of “new politics.”
The main opposition party earlier called for the abolishment of the candidate nomination system as its core election strategy, used to denounce the ruling party for failing to keep its promise. But with the NPAD backtracking on its much-repeated pledge, the campaign framework of “lies and promises” that the opposition party had built has lost traction, along with its drive for political reform.
On Thursday, the NPAD announced it would nominate candidates for the local elections in compliance with a party vote and opinion poll that reversed party leaders’ decision to abolish nominations.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)