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Ruling camp’s nomination fight turns ugly

 The political row between the president and the ruling party leader reached new heights Wednesday, as Saenuri chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung hit back at Cheong Wa Dae’s criticism of the party nomination scheme he agreed with the opposition.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy also hit out at the presidential office, accusing it of attempting to meddle in electoral affairs as part of its internal power struggle.

Kim, who skipped party meetings and canceled public schedules earlier in the day, made an unexpected visit to the National Assembly to rebut the accusation that he had not fully communicated with Cheong Wa Dae and his party members when he pushed for a new party nomination procedure for elections.

Kim also told reporters that he had notified the presidential office of his plan to hammer out an agreement with NPAD leader Rep. Moon Jae-in. The two had agreed Monday on a survey-like nomination system via secure phone lines after an impromptu meeting in Busan at Kim’s suggestion. 


                                                  The ruling Saenuri Party leader Rep. Kim Moo-sug. Yonhap

                                                  The ruling Saenuri Party leader Rep. Kim Moo-sug. Yonhap

The nomination deal exposed and exacerbated the heavy power struggle between those loyal to President Park and the others in the Saenuri Party, with Cheong Wa Dae jumping into the fray Wednesday with remarks seemingly intended to undermine Kim’s leadership.

The presidential office criticized the new nomination system, saying it could damage the fairness of nominations. Kim, however, waved off the concerns and shot back that a Cheong Wa Dae official should not insult a ruling party leader.

“I didn’t get to hear whether they (Cheong Wa Dae) agreed or not, I just told them about how I would steer the discussion. (After the meeting) I took a photo of agreement and sent it (to the presidential office),” said Kim.

“The reason why I reveal this is because I feel so frustrated. It seems that I have been depicted as someone who orchestrated the whole thing. If they continue to create something out of thin air, the party would be divided and find itself cornered in elections,” said Kim.

Choeng Wa Dae clarified Thursday that Kim had notified Hyun Ki-hwan, senior presidential secretary for political affairs, on Sept. 26 of his meeting with Moon. It said that Hyun relayed his concern over Kim’s push for the new nomination procedure. The office also denied that their opposition to the procedure amounted to political interference.

The presidential office said that Hyun did not report the matter immediately to President Park as she was on her U.N. trip at the time.

The NPAD, meanwhile, denounced the tit-for-tat between Kim and Cheong Wa Dae and dismissed it as an attempt by Park allies to infringe upon political parties’ authority to nominate their own candidates.

The NPAD also rejected the call from the Saenuri Party to hold a special meeting for an election system between the two parties’ leaderships. The NPAD labeled it as a move to nullify the effect of the agreement between the leaders of the two parties. 

“It seems the demise of Rep. Yoo Seong-min all over again,” said Rep. Lee Jong-gul, referring to the former whip who stepped down under the pressure, having been accused of giving in to an NPAD demand despite Park’s strong objections.

“The National Assembly is not an elementary school. Lawmakers are not supposed to sit and write what the president said. It seems to me that President Park wants to interfere with nominating candidates and election processes as a whole. I urge Cheong Wa Dae to mind its own business,” said NPAD whip Rep. Lee Jong-gul.

Meanwhile, the latest poll showed that the ruling Saenuri Party had taken a hit from escalating in-house scuffles over the controversial nomination system. According to the survey on Thursday conducted by Realmeter, the Saenuri Party’s approval rating recorded at 37.4 percent, 3.9 percent point drop from last week.

By Yeo Jun-suk (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)

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