Voters have made their choices in the local elections but the race is not over for would-be presidential runners.
In this year’s local elections a host of potential presidential runners competed for various local administrative posts, which would fill out their resumes in preparation for their presidential bids.
Although the strategy paid off for former President Lee Myung-bak, who used his time as the Seoul mayor as a springboard towards the presidency, attempting a similar step has brought mixed results for various hopefuls.
For South Chungcheong Province governor-elect Ahn Hee-jung of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, the strategy has paid off, as it has done for Hong Joon-pyo and Won Hee-ryong of the ruling Saenuri Party.
All three made it clear that they would not shy away from making an attempt at the presidency in the future while campaigning for the local elections. Hong, who once led the conservatives, won his second term as South Gyeongsang Province governor, while Won will fill the post for Jejudo Island.
Seoul mayor Park Won-soon of the NPAD, who is heading into his second term, is another figure to have consolidated his status as a potential presidential candidate.
Park, who won his first Seoul mayoral term with the aide of NPAD co-chairman Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, has proven that he is fully capable of standing his ground.
For his rival in the local elections, Chung Mong-joon, however, the outlook is very different. Chung, a former lawmaker with seven-terms under his belt, lost against Park with a margin of nearly 13 percentage points.
Chung’s campaign was hamstringed by his youngest son, a common occurrence in local politics, when he made controversial comments about the families of the Sewol ferry disaster’s victims.
Misdeeds of children and spouses have dashed the hopes of many heavyweights including former conservative leader Lee Hoe-chang, whose presidential bid was ruined when it was revealed that his son dodged military service illegally.
In contrast to Chung, who has made a presidential bid once before, Nam Kyung-pil of the same party is now considered a strong contender to become a presidential candidate for the Saenuri Party years down the line.
There is another potential runner for presidency to come out of the local elections, namely NPAD’s Kim Boo-kyun. Although he failed to take the Daegu mayor post, bringing in more than 40 percent of the votes in a city with perhaps the most deeply rooted conservative tendencies has marked him as a force to contend with.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)