Park clinches Saenuri primary rules

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Park clinches Saenuri primary rules

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The Saenuri Party yesterday decided to hold its presidential primary without changing any rules, finalizing a schedule to announce its candidate at a national convention on Aug. 20.

The decision created a split in the presidential hopefuls. It satisfied the demand of Park Geun-hye, the party’s former chairwoman and a long-time presidential front-runner, and disgruntled her three main rivals.

In reaction, those three rivals, representatives Lee Jae-oh and Chung Mong-joon and Gyeonggi Gov. Kim Moon-soo, said they will boycott the primary. They said the party was favoring Park deliberately

“Under the current rules, we will have the primary voting on Aug. 19,” said Representative Kim Young-woo, the party’s spokesman. “And the national convention, where the outcome will be announced, will take place on Aug. 20.”

With the leadership’s decision yesterday, the Saenuri Party’s nominee will be decided by a combination of party delegate votes (which accounts for 20 percent of a candidate’s final score), party member voting (30 percent), voting open to the general public (30 percent) and opinion polls (20 percent).

All but one of Park’s rivals wanted an “open” primary with voting from the public at large. They knew one of her strengths is support from party members and delegates.

Former presidential chief of staff Yim Tae-hee and former Incheon Mayor Ahn Sang-soo as well as Representative Kim Tae-ho are still expected to compete against Park.

It remains to be seen if Park’s triumph in the primary rules will actually benefit her presidential ambitions.

Without an open primary, Park will be freed from concerns that the opposition parties will participate in the process to vote against her. Non-party members, and even haters of the party, can vote in open primaries.

Because her key rivals will boycott the primary, she is also expected to face fewer character attacks.

Park will also have more time to promote her vision before the December election. “Since 1992, the candidate whose nomination was finalized the earliest always won the presidency in December,” said Representative Kim Jae-won, a Park supporter.

Political observers, however, said Park will have more to lose by having a primary boycotted by her rivals. “She has overwhelming popularity, but she didn’t budge even a bit to concede to weaker rivals,” said an election consultant, asking for anonymity. “The voters will see this as her first display of power.”

Others said the primary won’t be able to generate voter interest because it will be seen as a mere formality to award her the candidacy.

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

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