As primary comes to end, DUP faces internal strife

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As primary comes to end, DUP faces internal strife

As its presidential primary nears its end, the largest opposition party is experiencing growing internal challenges to the leadership’s fairness in how it is selecting its candidate.

The Democratic United Party so far had 10 rounds of primaries around the country and Moon Jae-in, former chief of staff to late President Roh Moo-hyun, scored his 10th victory in Daejeon on Sunday, garnering 50.4 percent of the total votes.

With three primaries left in Daegu and North Gyeongsang, Gyeonggi and Seoul throughout this week, expectations are high that Moon will keep his lead in the race.

As the end of the primary nears, the internal split in the DUP is growing wider. Against front-runner Moon, three other candidates Sohn Hak-kyu, Kim Doo-kwan and Chung Sye-kyun have united to challenge the fairness of the primary process, particularly the mobile voting system.

They attacked Moon and the party leadership, including DUP Chairman Lee Hae-chan and floor leader Park Jie-won, for bringing about a crisis to the party with their political wheeling and dealing.

In April, leaders of the two largest factions in the DUP reached a deal on splitting leadership positions.

Moon, Lee and Park came together on the formation of the new leadership of the party in a strategy for the DUP to overcome its shortcomings and better counter the Saenuri Party in the presidential election, but the arrangement was largely criticized by other political heavyweights inside the DUP.

The aftermath, however, still lingered. Lee was the particular target of criticism throughout the primary as candidates other than Moon complained that the primary rule and operation were in favor of Moon.

In the primary session in Daejeon on Sunday, the audience erupted to condemn Lee as he entered the Chungmu Gymnasium to give a speech.

The crowds jeered at Lee and a violent brawl took place as angry audience members fought against the primary staffers. Eggs and water bottles were thrown between supporters of different candidates and more fist fights followed.

It was not the first time that the DUP primary was marred with violence. Fights also took place during the primary in Incheon on Sept. 2.

As the crisis deepened, 11 DUP lawmakers with more than four terms under their belts gathered to hold a meeting yesterday and talked about the worrisome situation.

“Our goal is winning the presidency,” Representative Park Byeong-seug, deputy speaker of the DUP, told a reporter after the meeting. “We need unity and reform to this end.”

The DUP also scheduled a lawmakers’ assembly today to talk about the reform.

“There were demands from the lawmakers to have an assembly,” Representative Park Jie-won, the floor leader, said at the Supreme Council meeting yesterday. “We will have a two-hour free discussion session from 8 to 10 a.m. [today].”

A group of 39 DUP lawmakers sent a petition to Park Friday to have the lawmakers’ assembly address the internal crisis. Pressure also grew that Lee and Park should give up their powerful leadership positions and retire from frontline politics.

Lee was a no-show at the Supreme Council meeting. The party said he was feeling ill, but some Democrats linked Lee’s absence to the violence displayed at the Daejeon primary because it took place in his stronghold. Lee’s electoral district is Sejong City in South Chungcheong.

Chung Sye-kyun, one of the primary contenders, criticized the leadership again yesterday for having designed the primary rule unfairly and prompted fights among the candidates.

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

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