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Is Chung’s overwhelming victory a signal for political change?

Is Chung’s overwhelming victory a signal for political change?

Posted May. 13, 2014 06:55,   


Rep. Chung Mong-joon beat former former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and Supreme Council member Lee Hye-hoon by a large margin in the primary of the ruling Saenuri Party for the June 4 Seoul mayoral race on Monday. After being named, Chung criticized incumbent Seoul mayor Park Won-soon of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, saying, “If it (the Seoul city government) were a company, it would bankrupt dozens of times.” On Monday morning, Park exceptionally held a press conference at the National Assembly and said to the ruling party’s mayoral candidate, “Let’s have a quiet election, a policy-based election, and no-negative election.” The competition is heated from the beginning.

With the selection of the Seoul mayoral candidate, the ruling named all 17 candidates for metropolitan and provincial posts. When the main opposition party picks a candidate for North Jeolla Province governor today, the list of matches will be completed. Both ruling and opposition parties are still selecting candidates for local government and council seats. The selection is much delayed than before in the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster. If candidates are registered on May 15 and 16, however, the race for local elections will begin.

The ruling party’s selection of its candidates shows strength in the non-Park Geun-hye faction and weakness in the pro-Park faction. A good example is that Chung Mong-joon of the non-Park faction beat Kim Hwang-sik of the pro-Park faction. Although the pro-Park faction leadership in the party and the presidential office supported Kim to hold Chung in check, the pro-Park faction overreached itself only to have an egg on its face. The party selected non-Park candidates in nine out of 17 metropolitan and provincial seats including Daegu, the party’s stronghold.

The main opposition party shows weakness in the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction and the pro-Ahn Cheol-soo faction. The pro-Roh faction had only Ahn Hee-jung, the incumbent Chungcheong Province governor who seeks relection and Kim Kyung-soo, director of the Roh Moo-hyun Fundation who is named the party’s South Gyeongsang gubernatorial candidate. As the pro-Ahn faction failed to get Kim Sang-gon, a Gyeonggi Province gubernatorial candidate nominee, named, it has only Yoon Jang-hyun, a Gwangju mayoral candidate. It remains to be seen whether Yoon can even survive in Gwangju, the main opposition party’s stronghold, overcoming the side effect of the party’s strategic selection.

The change in power dynamics within the parties seem meaningful as mainstream factions – the pro-Park, the pro-Roh, and the pro-Ahn factions – showed weakness, although the selections were for local elections. The Saenuri Party changed its floor leader from Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan, a key member of the pro-Park faction, to Rep. Lee Wan-gu. It elects a new party leader in July. The New Politics Alliance for Democracy shows signs of a serious internal strife as the party’s co-leader Ahn seems to lose his foothold in the party due in the aftermath of the party’s nomination. A change in the dynamics of power in parties could affect the relationship between the ruling party and the presidential office, and the ruling and opposition parties.

The dropping approval ratings of both the ruling and opposition parties since the ferry disaster represent the people’s distrust in politics. Both the ruing or opposition parties could meet a headwind if they use the disaster for their political dispute or elections. The elections should be quiet but there should be no less public interest and participation in the important event which selects local leaders. Voters should closely look at pledges of parties and their candidates.