Can Ahn and DUP find a way to get along?
Liberal independent Ahn Cheol-soo has said he will soon decide whether to run for president in the December election.
That has produced a number of possible scenarios for how the candidacies will pan out.
Ahn’s spokesman said Tuesday that the software mogul-turned-academic, who is wildly popular with liberals and young voters, will announce his decision after the Democratic United Party, the largest opposition party, finishes its primary and announces its candidate.
How Ahn and the DUP cooperate in the race - or don’t - is the crux of the issue.
The liberals want a single candidate to pit against the ruling Saenuri Party’s candidate Park Geun-hye. But Ahn refused to join any party or participate in any primary. He says he stands for a new type of politics.
But if he and the DUP’s official candidate both run, they will undoubtedly split the liberal vote and give the election to Park.
Analysts say opinion polls could be an important factor as to how they come together.
If Ahn’s approval ratings keep surpassing those of Moon Jae-in, who is leading in the DUP primary by a large margin, the DUP might have to capitulate to him, allowing him to be the sole presidential candidate if he agrees to appoint Moon as prime minister if he wins the race.
If the approval ratings of Ahn and Moon are neck and neck, the party could agree to an extended round with a primary between them.
If Moon’s approval rating is over his, Ahn could just forget about running and endorse the DUP.
The fourth scenario is that Ahn could act as he did before the October 2011 Seoul mayoral by-election, when he decided not to run and instead endorsed the candidacy of lawyer-turned-activist Park Won-soon. At the time, Ahn had 50 percent approval ratings and Park only had 5 percent.
Whether negotiations between Ahn and the DUP could ever succeed is already a question.
Kim Boo-kyum, a DUP lawmaker, told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday at a primary in Daegu that when he met with Ahn on Monday, Ahn reportedly said he doesn’t know how to develop relations with the main opposition party.
“I advised Ahn that he and the DUP should cooperate and that we are not enemies or competitors,” Kim told the JoongAng Ilbo.
Whether Ahn wants to join the scandal-ridden DUP is also uncertain. Ahn has criticized its business-as-usual ways and positioned himself as a new type of political leader.
A report from the DUP’s presidential camp, which the JoongAng Ilbo obtained yesterday, said the DUP is taking a “two-track strategy,” differentiating a DUP candidate from Ahn while also attacking the ruling party’s Park. The DUP is focusing on supporting its own candidate, at least until Ahn joins with them.
“It won’t be an easy decision for Ahn to join the DUP and become the DUP’s candidate,” Shin Yul, a politics professor at Myongji University, told the Korea JoongAng Daily.
“He has positioned himself as an objector to the current ways of politics in this country and he would forfeit that position if he enters the DUP.”
On the flip side, the DUP won’t support Ahn unless he joins the party, Shin said. “In this sense, I speculate that Ahn would run as an independent or a candidate of a newly created party against Park and Moon.”
By Yang Won-bo, Kim Hee-jin [firstname.lastname@example.org]