Factional disputes dominate GNP chairman race
A contest among 13 politicians to become chairman of the ruling Grand National Party kicked off yesterday.
The party will hold its national convention on July 14 to choose a new leadership after top officials stepped down in the aftermath of the crushing local election defeat last month.
After a 10-day campaign, five members of the Supreme Council will be elected. The candidate who wins the most votes will be chairman. One seat in the council is earmarked for a woman.
Following the election defeat, President Lee Myung-bak urged his party to embrace a “generational change” to win back young voters. Although Lee has expressed his desire for younger candidates, Lee told his presidential office staff to stay away from the convention to avoid any speculation about their influence, Blue House officials said.
A fierce competition among GNP factions is guaranteed. Five of the candidates are Lee loyalists while four back his interparty rival Park Geun-hye. The remaining four are moderate, reform-minded candidates without factional ties.
Candidates loyal to Lee are Representatives Ahn Sang-soo, Hong Joon-pyo, Chung Doo-un and Chung Mi-kyung, as well as Kim Dae-sik, former secretary general of the National Unification Advisory Council.
The candidates from Park’s faction are Representatives Suh Byung-soo, Lee Sung-hun, Han Sun-kyo and Lee Hye-hoon.
The non-factional candidates are Representatives Nam Kyung-pil, Na Kyung-won, Kim Sung-sik and Cho Jeon-hyeok.
The competition for the seat earmarked for a female is among Chung Mi-kyung, Lee Hye-hoon and Na Kyung-won.
The complex election method is likely to produce surprises. Ballots cast by the party’s 9,000 delegates will account for 70 percent of the outcome, and each delegate will be given two ballots. A public opinion poll of non-party members will count for the remaining 30 percent.
Political analysts said the possibility of candidates dropping out of the race at the last minute could have a major effect on the ultimate results.
The first TV debate for the 13 candidates took place yesterday, and all vowed to reform the party and bring about harmony by ending factional disputes. The 110-minute debate was hosted by SBS.
Among the 13 candidates, Representatives Ahn and Hong are considered the strongest chairman contenders. Both of them are four-term lawmakers and served the GNP as floor leaders. They are also pro-Lee.
In the TV debate, the rivalry between Hong and Ahn was apparent. Hong claimed that Ahn is unable to bring harmony to the party because he is a hardliner in the pro-Lee faction.
Ahn attacked Hong for having failed to handle legislative activities properly when he served as floor leader.
Ahn cited a violent scuffle between Grand Nationals and opposition lawmakers over the GNP’s forwarding of a motion to ratify the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement at the Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee two years ago. Ahn said Hong should be held responsible for the incident.
More TV debates and joint campaign events around the nation are planned before the convention.
By Ser Myo-ja [firstname.lastname@example.org]