Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon of the ruling People Power Party has reclaimed the front-runner position in the race for party leader in the wake of a row between his rival Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo and the office of President Yoon Suk Yeol, a poll showed Wednesday.
In the survey of 402 PPP supporters conducted by Realmeter on Monday and Tuesday, Kim earned 45.3 percent of support, up 9.3 percentage points from last week, while Ahn fell to second place with 30.4 percent, down 12.9 percentage points.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
Kim's surge came after Yoon's office openly expressed displeasure with Ahn after the candidate said he has good "alliance"-like relations with Yoon. The presidential office said the remark was inappropriate as it put Ahn on par with the president.
"It appears that the presidential office and pro-Yoon lawmakers expressing criticism of the term 'Yoon-Ahn alliance' appears to have affected the survey of PPP supporters," Realmeter said.
Yoon's office is widely believed to be backing Kim.
Chun Ha-ram, an attorney favorable to ousted PPP chair Lee Jun-seok, placed third at 9.4 percent, trailed by former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn at 7 percent, and Reps. Cho Kyung-tae and Yoon Sang-hyun at 2.4 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
In a hypothetical two-way race between Kim and Ahn, Kim earned majority support at 52.6 percent compared with Ahn's 39.3 percent.
A separate poll conducted by Hangil Research, however, showed that Kim and Ahn were still neck-and-neck in the leadership race.
Ahn garnered 35.5 percent, closely trailed by Kim at 31.2 percent, in the poll of 527 PPP supporters conducted by the pollster from Saturday to Monday.
Chun earned 10.9 percent, followed by Hwang's 7.8 percent. Yoon and Cho, respectively, garnered 3.2 percent and 1.5 percent.
A hypothetical two-way race between the top two contenders showed that Ahn was ahead at 46.7 percent compared with Kim's 37.5 percent.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
The PPP's election committee is set to hold a vote of paying party members Friday to pick the top four candidates ahead of a national convention on March 8 to elect a new leader. (Yonhap)