Opposition candidates in two strategically important constituencies for the coming July by-elections on Thursday stepped down from their candidacy as part of efforts to prevent the ruling party from gaining more seats in the National Assembly.
Ki Dong-min of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy said earlier Thursday that he would quit his candidacy in Seoul’s Dongjak-B constituency. Later in the day, minor opposition Justice Party chairman Cheon Ho-sun bowed out of the race in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province. Dongjak and Suwon are both considered swing regions, and are thus strategically important.
With Ki and Cheon’s resignation, the opposition hopes that anti-Saenuri Party voters will funnel their ballots to the top opposition candidates still in the race.
In Dongjak, Ki’s resignation will likely make Justice Party candidate Roh Hoe-chan the opposition frontrunner in the district, according to recent voter surveys. Roh will face Saenuri Party candidate Na Kyung-won. Na had been considered the clear favorite over the opposition candidates as some polls suggested the former judge would have double the support of Ki and Roh.
But a poll conducted on Monday showed that Roh as a unified candidate would narrow the gap to less than 1 percentage point. According to the same survey, Ki would trail Na by more than 10 percentage points even after absorbing Roh’s campaign.
In the Suwon-D constituency, NPAD candidate Park Kwang-on will likely be the opposition’s frontrunner after Cheon bows out.
Park, a former television news anchor and currently an NPAD spokesperson, will face veteran politician Yim Tae-hee, a former presidential chief-of-staff in the Lee Myung-bak administration.
The Saenuri Party criticized the opposition’s moves.
“The move is a political scandal,” Saenuri Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun said earlier Thursday.
Saenuri Party spokesman Park Dae-chul called Ki and Cheon’s decisions “a politics of treason.”
“The Saenuri Party will not be shaken by the (moves),” Park said.
The July 30 by-elections are set to decide the winners of 15 vacant parliamentary seats. With the Saenuri Party already holding 147 spots in the 300-seat parliament, the opposition hopes to minimize ruling party gains.
By Jeong Hunny