South Chungcheong Province governor Ahn Hee-jeong expressed his willingness on Wednesday to run for president as a liberal contender in three years.
“I will run for president if I can provide an appropriate alternative to established politics,” Ahn said, amid media speculation over which elected officials from the June local elections might run for president in 2017.
Ahn, from the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy and onetime aide to the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, was elected to his second term as governor in the June 4 local elections. He defeated the ruling Saenuri Party competitor Chung Jin-suk.
Provincial and municipal chiefs of key districts are often viewed as potential presidential candidates. An election victory in Chungcheong raises a politician’s presidential prospects as experts consider the swing region more difficult to win than the opposition-dominated Jeolla provinces.
“You need to have the necessary expertise to run for president,” Ahn said, adding he would improve his leadership skills while serving as governor of South Chungcheong Province.
But senior officials in the NPAD said in-house competition for the party’s presidential ticket would be fierce.
“Mr. Ahn is certainly a respected individual within our party,” said a senior NPAD official. But his post as a provincial chief far away from Seoul would limit his standing as a Cheong Wa Dae hopeful, the official added.
“A municipal chief working in Seoul has a higher reputation than those working in other provinces.”
The official mentioned Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, who won a landslide victory in the recent polls against senior Saenuri politician Chung Mong-joon, as someone with “better chances” of becoming an opposition presidential candidate.
This is not the first time Ahn has publicized his presidential ambitions.
The governor said last month during his campaign drive that he would run for president when “he feels comfortably assured.”
The Korea University graduate served as one of Roh’s prominent aides. Ahn, however, spent one year in prison during the Roh administration for receiving illegal funds in the 2002 presidential race. He refused to serve in public office after his incarceration, saying that being appointed to a government office would bring on unnecessary criticism of Roh. Ahn returned to politics in 2010 when he became the province’s governor.
By Jeong Hunny (firstname.lastname@example.org)