Ahn Cheol-soo, the leader of the minor People's Party and a Seoul mayoral candidate, speaks during a press conference on Friday, at the National Assembly in Seoul. (Yonhap)
Ahn Cheol-soo, the Seoul mayoral candidate of the minor conservative People's Party (PP), said Friday he will accept the terms proposed by the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) in conducting public opinion surveys to determine a unified single opposition candidate in the April by-election.
"I am accepting the (candidacy) unification methods demanded by interim PPP chairman Kim Chong-in and candidate Oh Se-hoon," Ahn said in a press conference held at the National Assembly.
Ahn added, "If public opinion polls are launched this weekend, we might be able to select (a single candidate for the opposition bloc) on Monday," he noted.
He also added that the unification process should be completed speedily so that the final candidate can be fixed at least before next Thursday, when election campaigns will officially begin.
A former software mogul-turned-politician, Ahn had been in negotiations with Oh, a former Seoul mayor who is running on the ticket of the bigger and more established opposition party, to merge their campaigns for the April 7 Seoul mayoral by-election.
The two sides initially agreed to determine a single candidate by Friday, the deadline for the two-day candidacy registration period, through means of telephone-based public opinion polls. The talks, however, fell apart due to disagreements over whether the polls should include landline numbers as well as mobile numbers.
Oh's campaign had demanded at least about 10 percent of the surveys should be based on landline numbers, traditionally deemed favorable to more conservative candidates. Ahn, however, had wanted public polls based entirely on mobile phones.
"Let's forget about the discord and (negative) emotions (we have had) between us so far and start anew only for the sake of the opposition's victory," Ahn noted.
Kim also expressed relief over Ahn's announcement, telling reporters following Ahn's press conference, "It's fortunate that he responded (to the proposal) not too late."
Without the unification of the two campaigns, the bellwether mayoral by-election could end up in a neck-and-neck three-way race, splitting the conservative support base between Ahn and Oh against Park Young-sun, the single candidate from the liberal ruling bloc. (Yonhap)