NATIONAL

[Newsmaker] Democratic Party jockeys for presidential race

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Mar 6, 2017 - 17:49
  • Updated : Mar 6, 2017 - 17:49
President Park Geun-hye’s fate is still up in the air, but the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea is wasting no time in its preparation for the next presidential election.

Four presidential contenders of the liberal party squared off at the party’s primary debate Monday, trying to prove their eligibility to become the nation’s next leader.

They are former party leader Moon Jae-in, South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung, Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung and Goyang Mayor Choi Sung.
 
Left to right: Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, the party's former cheif Moon Jae-in, South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung and Goyang Mayor Choi Sung pose for a photo prior to a TV debate in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

“After the Constitutional Court’s ruling over the ouster of Park, society will be put in greater confusion,” Moon said. “I have experience in politics, state management and the parliament. I am a prepared and qualified candidate.”

In a latest survey released Monday, he continued to lead the pack of presidential hopefuls with a support rating of 36.4 percent.

Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, seen as a potential presidential candidate from the ruling conservative camp, took second place with 14.9 percent.

Gov. An saw a drop of 6.3 percentage points from the previous week, posting at 12.6 percent. Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition People’s party followed, garnering 10.8 percent. Mayor Lee edged down by 1.2 percentage points to stand at 8.9 percent.

Overall, the Democratic Party continued to top the list of parties with a 47.2 percent rating, high above the ruling conservative Liberty Korea Party, formerly Saenuri, which posted 14.4 percent. The opposition People’s Party followed with 10.7 percent, while conservative splinter Bareun Party garnered 6.6 percent.

During the second round of the Democratic Party’s primary debate Monday, the competitors revealed their plans to work with other liberal parties if elected. Gov. An, viewed as relatively moderate in the left camp, reiterated his pledge of creating a united parliament to balance out the power of a president. An spoke of a “Grand Coalition” government, possibly including the ruling conservative Liberty Korea Party, which is still loyal to scandal-ridden President Park.

“With the premise that the Liberty Korea Party agrees to plans for reform of society, we can work together for an efficient National Assembly,” he said during the online debate.

Mayor Lee, standing more to the left of the other two, stressed the importance of providing basic income and labor rights, which were his key pledges in the debate.

Goyang Mayor Choi, who is relatively unknown, introduced himself as a politician influenced by late former liberal President Kim Dae-jung, who was in office from 1998 to 2003.

Eight more debates are scheduled, with the upcoming one on television slated for next Tuesday. The party held its first primary debate Friday through a local radio broadcast.

The Constitutional Court is expected to deliver its ruling on the ouster of President Park as early as Friday. If Park’s ouster is confirmed, the nation must elect its next leader within 60 days.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, the number of in-house voters had reached over 1.4 million, following the party’s election committee opening its registration on Feb. 15.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)