Opposition party contenders for Seoul’s Dongjak-B constituency Ki Dong-min and Roh Hoe-chan are to merge their campaigns to go up against the favorite Na Kyung-won of the ruling Saenuri Party.
On Wednesday, New Politics Alliance for Democracy candidate Ki announced that he had accepted Roh’s suggestion from the previous day.
“(Campaign) unification is a process of cooperation for a new future,” Ki said.
On Tuesday, Roh, former leader of the minor opposition Justice Party, suggested that he and Ki merge their campaigns to field a unified opposition candidate. He also declared that he would end his campaign and endorse Ki if the merger process was not completed by Thursday.
|Roh Hoe-chan (Yonhap)|
The merger process, however, got off to a shaky start with each side suggesting different methods for selecting the unified candidate.
Ki passed the ball to the party, saying that it should make a “responsible judgment,” but he reportedly rejected Roh’s suggestion to conduct an opinion poll.
Roh, for his part, criticized Ki, saying that the NPAD candidate may be playing for time.
“It seems that (Ki) plans to wait until I withdraw, but that is not an idea (befitting) a responsible party candidate,” Roh said.
As for Na, the former judge hit back at the opposition candidates, saying that they were “making a mockery of the people.”
“An opposition alliance is an expected outcome. If opposition (parties) form an alliance, I will ally with Dongjak residents,” Na said.
In the Dongjak-B constituency, Na is considered to have a clear lead over the opposition candidates with some polls showing the former judge to have more than twice as much support as Ki and Roh.
|Ki Dong-min (Yonhap)|
Ki is likely to face an uphill struggle even if Roh throws his support behind him. According to a poll conducted Monday, Ki trails Na by more than 10 percentage points even after absorbing Roh’s campaign. With Roh as the unified candidate, the gap narrowed to less than 1 percentage point.
The move by the two opposition Dongjak-B candidates prompted an attack from the outspoken Seanuri Party Secretary-General Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun, who called the merger “neither just nor new.”
As the voting day approaches for the largest parliamentary by-elections to date, the two main parties have launched all-out campaigns to support their candidates across the country.
Of the two main parties, the Saenuri Party is considered to have the upper hand with its candidates seen as having clear leads in five of the 15 constituencies contested in the upcoming elections. In addition, ruling party candidates in four constituencies in Gyeonggi and the Chungcheong provinces are leading opposition rivals by smaller margins.
The NPAD, despite fielding heavyweights such as former party leader Sohn Hak-kyu, is seen as having the upper hand in three of the four constituencies in the Jeolla provinces.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com