Having entered what traditionally would be the lame duck fourth year in office, President Park Geun-hye could use some renewed loyalty from her conservative home Saenuri Party to back her up in pushing ahead with pending state affairs.
It is under such circumstances that the state leader publicly commented in favor of the ruling party over several occasions during the campaigning season, at the risk of breaching the duty of political neutrality.
But even if the Saenuri Party were to reap a sweeping victory in the parliamentary election, a fierce internal battle is likely to follow suit -- one between those close to the president and those who flock around party chief Rep. Kim Moo-sung.
Saenuri Party supporters listen to a stump speech by party chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung in support of candidate Kang Yo-shik in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
“I hope that the 20th National Assembly will devote itself for the sake of the people,” Park said in a regular Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, reminding the nation of the parliamentary election the following day and urging the citizens to exercise their voting rights.
In criticizing the current parliament, she referred to the economic revitalization bills that failed to pass the floor due to persisting opposition disapproval.
“With the North Korean provocation lurking around, our nation could always face a second financial crisis, should the economy halt its progress,” Park said.
By highlighting the economy and national security issues, the president effectively aroused the conservative voters’ sense of crisis, calling them to give momentum to the ruling party.
The state leader’s unreserved political push immediately triggered backlash from the opposition as a “blatant intervention in election.”
The presidential house and the ruling party, however, were less affected by opposition complaints than by their own internal feuds -- which have only been temporarily suspended for the sake of the election.
At the peak of the factional infighting was Rep. Yoo Seong-min, third-termer in conservative stronghold and the president’s hometown Daegu, who exited the party after being excluded from candidate nomination.
Backed by Kim’s last-minute support, the party failed to nominate an in-party rival to Daegu’s Dong-gu, enabling Yoo to anticipate an easy win in the conservative stronghold city.
The wrap-up of Wednesday’s election is also expected to signal the launch of moves by various high-flying figures within the party, as they eye party candidacy for next year’s presidential election.
They include Kim Moo-sung, former Seoul mayor Oh Se-hoon and former Gyeonggi governor Kim Moon-soo.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org