Saenuri starts leadership vote amid factional divide

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Aug 7, 2016 - 16:31
  • Updated : Aug 7, 2016 - 18:04

The ruling conservative Saenuri Party on Sunday kicked off its nationwide electorate vote to constitute a new leadership that will replace the current interim system and set the stage for next year’s presidential election.

While those close to President Park Geun-hye remain divided, with each of the three candidates vowing to make the bid, the relatively reformist non-Park group merged their candidacies for the sake of in-party restructuring.

The electoral vote, involving some 347,000 party members, was held from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in 252 polling stations nationwide. Its result is to be sealed for two days, until the end of the party’s national convention on Tuesday, and totaled with ballots casted that day by some 9,000 representative members, according to officials.
The four candidates bidding for the ruling Saenuri Party‘s chairmanship. (From left) Reps. Lee Ju-young, Lee Jung-hyun, Joo Ho-young, and Han Sun-kyo. (Yonhap)
Representing the non-Park faction is Rep. Joo Ho-young, who earlier united his candidacy with Rep. Choung Byoung-gug based on public polls.

From the pro-presidential clique are former Maritime Minister Rep. Lee Ju-young, former senior presidential secretary for public affairs Rep. Lee Jung-hyun and former news announcer Rep. Han Sun-kyo.

Rep. Lee Jung-hyun, boosted by his close ties with the president and his consecutive election victories in the opposition-leaning Yeosu region, claimed to have an upper hand but he, too, has been struggling with the split of votes within the pro-Park pool.

The key factor in the one-on-three match is whether the candidacy merger of the two non-mainstreamers will have the intended synergy effect. Rep. Joo, fourth-termer in the southern city of Daegu, is hoping that his unity with Gyeonggi-based Rep. Choung will up his chances in the metropolitan region.

Also, backing up the non-Park group is Rep. Kim Moo-sung, former party chairman and bigwig figure in Busan, who explicitly voiced his support for Rep. Joo. Kim’s existence is especially likely to affect the party electorate in the southeastern Busan-South Gyeongsang region, where a considerable portion of the party’s electorate voters are located.

Meanwhile, Rep. Lee Ju-young made protests that each faction was delivering “orders” to its affiliated members to vote for a specific candidate.

“It was for such factional dispute that we lost in the general election (on April 13),” said Rep. Lee in a press conference on Sunday.

“There is no future for the Saenuri Party, should such these power games continue.”

The former minister thereby pointed the finger not only at the non-Park group, but also at his own pro-Park clique, calling for fair democratic processes.

By Bae Hyun-jung (