GNP and DP digging in for a face-off in the national elections

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GNP and DP digging in for a face-off in the national elections

With 100 days ticking down before the June local elections, political parties are gearing up to prepare for a showdown that is widely considered a yardstick for the 2012 legislative and presidential elections.

The elections to select regional government heads and legislative council members will take place on June 2. As the first nationwide election since the 2008 legislative election, political observers said the event can be considered the public’s midterm evaluation of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s performance.

According to the National Election Commission, the preliminary registration of candidates for the metropolitan city mayor and governor posts began on Feb. 2. The preliminary registration for smaller regional governments and local legislative councils will take place today, the agency said.

The final list of candidates will be created when candidates finalize their bids on May 18 and 19. The official campaign period begins on May 20.

The two largest political parties - the ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party - have already begun preparations to win. Earlier this month, the Grand Nationals created an election management team led by their chairman, Chung Mong-joon. Representative Choung Byoung-gug was named the new secretary general of the party and Representative Chung Doo-un was appointed head of the local elections planning committee. Representative Nam Kyung-pil was tapped to lead the party’s candidate recruitment committee.

In addition to recruiting prominent candidates, the GNP’s key task is mending the internal rupture between rival factions. Ahead of the 2008 election, there were fierce confrontations between pro-Lee and pro-Park Geun-hye members over securing the party nomination, and the party infighting has not been resolved.

“This time, there must be fair and square nominations regarding pro-Lee and pro-Park candidates.

“As of now, no one has been given the ticket,” said Nam, adding that the party will nominate only competitive candidates.

The GNP is also preparing to counter the Democrats, who have promoted a strategy that makes the June elections an evaluation of the Lee administration’s performance.

“The opposition party’s tactic can put us at disadvantage, so we must make sure to counter it with a wise strategy,” Chung Doo-un said.

While the Grand Nationals are urging voters to select candidates who can effect national stability for economic recovery, the Democrats say the public should use the election to send a message to the current administration.

The DP, which suffered a crushing defeat four years ago, aims to regain its power in local governments and councils to establish a path to win the 2012 legislative and presidential elections.

The Democrats said the party will create a nomination committee before the end of this week and complete the process by mid-April.

The party is also seeking to form alliances with other opposition parties to keep the GNP from dominating the race. Five opposition parties, including the Democratic, Democratic Labor and Creative Korea parties, began preliminary negotiations to shape an alliance for joint victory in the local elections earlier this week. Four liberal civic groups also joined the move.

If the alliance is actually cemented, the opposition candidates will likely bend their efforts to running a negative campaign. DP Chairman Chung Sye-kyun said Tuesday that the opposition parties must complete the alliance and nominate candidates before the end of March.

The highlight of the local election will be the selection of the Seoul mayor. Incumbent Oh Se-hoon of the Grand National Party is seeking reelection, and Representative Won Hee-ryong has also made a bid for the post.

It remains unclear to whom the GNP will give its ticket, but Chung Doo-un has said it is crucial for the party to win the mayor’s post. “We may nominate a prominent candidate who can be as strong as a presidential contender,” Chung Doo-un said earlier this week.

No official bids have been made by the Democrats for the Seoul mayor posts yet, but former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook and former Welfare Minister Rhyu Si-min were named by political insiders as possibilities.

By Ser Myo-ja []

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