Parties demand Ahn to decide on candidacy

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Parties demand Ahn to decide on candidacy

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The liberals’ great hope for the presidential election, Ahn Cheol-soo faced growing pressure from both the ruling and opposition parties to make up his mind if he’s running in the wake of a report on Monday that he intends to run.

The JoongAng Ilbo reported exclusively Monday that Ahn, the dean of the Seoul National University Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology and the founder of antivirus software company Ahn Lab, has begun recruiting allies for his campaign, quoting a key aide to the 50-year-old, liberal tech guru.

Ahn remained tight-lipped about the report while the conservative ruling Saenuri Party and the liberal opposition Democratic United and Unified Progressive parties reacted sensitively to his possible presidential ambition. The liberal parties particularly wish to know if he’s planning to run as an independent or as their own candidate.

The DUP, the largest opposition party, said it wants Ahn to enter its primary. An alliance between the DUP and the UPP was defeated by the Saenuri Party in last week’s general election, despite clutching an early lead. Ahn said in an interview before the Seoul mayoral by-election last October that he was determined to stop the ruling party’s “political expansion.”

“It is desirable for Ahn to participate in the DUP’s public primary,” Moon Sung-keun, acting chairman of the DUP, told MBC radio yesterday morning. “He has said he wants to stop the [Saenuri Party’s] political expansion and he contributed to the Seoul mayoral election. Last week, he urged voters to cast ballots in the general election. He is a comrade in a larger sense, and we must join hands together.”

Moon said Ahn doesn’t necessarily have to become a DUP member to run in the primary.

“If the DUP decides on its presidential candidate first and then wants to unite with Ahn, the only way for the consolidation would be through an opinion poll,” Moon said. “But we all know that polls are not scientific. We think that is not a show of courtesy to the public.”

In an interview with SBS Radio, Sim Sang-jeong, co-chairwoman of the UPP, said, “If Ahn has presidential ambition, he must make the decision as soon as possible.”

Sim also said the minority progressive party wants to continue its alliance with the DUP to take on the Saenuri Party, adding that the UPP will field a presidential candidate.

Saenuri leader Park Geun-hye, the conservative’s presidential frontrunner, remained silent about Ahn, but one of her aides told the Yonhap News Agency yesterday he must face public scrutiny to prove his qualifications.

Saenuri Representative Lee Hye-hoon said yesterday that Ahn must make public his decision as soon as possible. “The people should be given enough time to scrutinize a candidate to make an accurate judgment,” Lee said.

Lee said the people need to know Ahn’s positions on key issues such as the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, the naval base being constructed on Jeju Island and youth employment. “He must present his positions on such important national issues,” Lee said.

Kim Chong-in, a former member of the Saenuri Party’s emergency council, echoed that sentiment on CBS Radio yesterday. “Confusing the people with ambiguous words is not the right attitude as a politician,” Kim said.

He said it is nearly impossible for Ahn to create a political force of his own to run in the presidential race. “If he runs as a consolidated liberal candidate, he will have a tight race against Park,” Kim predicted. “If not, he won’t have a chance.”

But Kim said Park won’t likely be threatened by Ahn even in a one-on-one contest. “Ahn is enjoying popularity, but his qualifications as a presidential candidate have not been verified. Once the scrutiny starts, no one knows what will actually happen.”

Latest opinion polls showed that Park’s frontrunner position for December’s presidential race was solidified after the Saenuri Party’s general election victory. According to a Realmeter poll, which was taken Thursday and Friday, Park was leading a two-way race against Ahn by 3.1 percentage points. The poll said Park was backed by 47.9 percent of respondents, while Ahn followed at 44.8 percent.

Another poll conducted after the general election by the JoongAng Ilbo and Gallup Korea showed that Park was backed by 45.1 percent of respondents, while Ahn followed with 35.9 percent in a two-way match.

Another survey jointly conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo, SBS, East Asia Institute and Hankook Research from Thursday until Sunday looked into the possibility of a presidential race with more than two candidates, and it showed that support for Park and Ahn went up slightly while the popularity of other candidates dropped after the general election. Park’s rating went up from 31.8 percent to 38.8 percent and Ahn’s from 21.2 percent to 24.4 percent.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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