The Korea Herald


Will civic candidates for Seoul mayor join parties?


Published : Sept. 18, 2011 - 19:19

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Lee, Park against joining  intra-party polls for candidate selection

As two influential figures from civil society have expressed their intention to run for Seoul mayor by-election, attention is being drawn to whether they will join any political parties for the crucial vote slated for Oct. 26.

The ruling and opposition parties are scrambling to bring them in as the two have emerged as formidable candidates to lead the conservative and liberal blocs, particularly when public disenchantment against established politicians is widespread.

Former Government Legislation Minister Lee Seog-yeon indicated he would join the race as a unified conservative candidate last week. Lawyer-turned-civil activist Park Won-soon made the preliminary candidate registration on Friday.

Political analysts say it is crucial for each political camp to unify its candidacy with civil forces as voters tired of seeing political parties ensnared in wasteful political, ideological disputes call for a change with a fresh leader from civil society.

For both the ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party, there is more than just the top post in the Seoul municipality at stake in what will be a major conservative-liberal showdown.

They believe the poll outcome will be a gauge of public sentiment that will greatly affect parliamentary and presidential elections next year.

On Sunday, Lee made it clear that he would not join the GNP competition for the candidate selection, adding to the agony of the ruling party struggling to retain the mayoral seat, which its member Oh Se-hoon won for the two consecutive terms.

“In any way, the candidate selected by the GNP will not have the competitiveness to win in the race and persuade the citizens,” he said in a media interview.
Lee Seog-yeon, Park Won-soon (Yonhap News) Lee Seog-yeon, Park Won-soon (Yonhap News)

The GNP is against the idea of having multiple candidates to join the race to represent the ruling camp, struggling to figure out a way to field a unified candidate.

“By mustering up all our forces, we should field a unified candidate from within our party,” GNP secretary-general Rep. Kim Chung-kwon told reporters.

There are apparently two options for the party. One is to persuade Lee to join the party and the other is to pick one GNP candidate through the intra-party competition and then seek to ally with other conservative groups to field a unified candidate.

There is some opposition to the latter option within the party. Some GNP lawmakers argue that their party should not adopt a method that its rival opposition party has employed. They also said that it is improper to pick a candidate from outside given that it is the largest party with 169 legislators in the 299-member National Assembly.

The GNP is scheduled to pick its candidate for the election on Oct. 4. Currently, Rep. Na Kyung-won is thought to be the most likely GNP candidate for the by-election.

Park Won-soon has also indicated that he would not join the DP’s internal vote to select its candidate, but left open the possibility of unifying the liberal candidacy.

“Misunderstandings are continuously being made. From the get-go, I have wanted to be a unified opposition candidate. After unifying the candidacy, there could be a variety of ways (I can follow) in consultation with the party and civil society,” Park told reporters.

The DP plans to hold its intra-party election to pick its candidate on Sept. 25 and seek to unify candidates with other liberal groups.

In the internal poll, its Supreme Council member Rep. Chun Jung-bae, policy chief Rep. Park Young-sun, Rep. Choo Mi-ae and former DP lawmaker Shin Gye-ryun are expected to participate.

By Song Sang-ho (