Park’s campaign stalls, strategists call for overhaul

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Park’s campaign stalls, strategists call for overhaul

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The ruling Saenuri Party began discussing a dramatic overhaul of the stalled presidential campaign of candidate Park Geun-hye in the face of her sinking popularity.

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The conservative ruling party held a lawmakers assembly yesterday to discuss Park’s key election pledge of “economic democratization.” Although the session was intended to discuss specific plans to make the slogan come true, many lawmakers attending the session talked about the crisis in Park’s campaign.

At the meeting, Representative Yoo Seong-min, a deputy chairman of the central election committee of the party and a key Park loyalist, said all the senior managers of Park’s campaign must step down from their posts, party sources said. The entire leadership of the party, election committee members and other top officials must take their hands off her campaign, he reportedly said.

Stressing that Park has no chance of winning the election if the situation continues, Yoo argued that she should be given the authority to create a new campaign committee.

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Park Geun-hye, right, washes the feet of a Vietnamese immigrant in Ulsan during a campaign stop in the city yesterday. [YONHAP]

Park did not attend the meeting.

With only a few weeks left before the Dec. 19 presidential election, demands are growing inside the party that a dramatic revamping is needed in the campaign. The idea of removing all familiar faces from Park’s campaign first came from Representative Nam Kyung-pil, a senior member of the reformist faction of the party, yesterday morning.

“We must change everything about the campaign,” Nam, a deputy chairman of the central election committee of the party, said in an interview with SBS radio yesterday. “I’ve often heard from the public that they don’t mind Park as the presidential candidate but they won’t vote for her because they hate the people surrounding her,” Nam said.

Representative Kim Yong-tae demanded Park promise to cut her presidential term short by one year and 10 months to align presidential and legislative elections. He said she should promise to adopt the American-style four-year presidency by amending the constitution, a move that will be bold enough to really compete with the liberals.

To spiff up the campaign, Park is also trying to recruit dozens of former Democrats who were loyal to the late President Kim Dae-jung. The group of senior politicians, often known as the Donggyo-dong faction after the location of Kim’s residence, is often identified with aged Jeolla voters.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Kim Kyung-jae said he is thinking about joining Park’s campaign. He said about 25 other Kim loyalists have also agreed to support her camp.

Han Gwang-ok, former chief of staff for Kim, has also been approached by Park, Kim said.

In the latest poll, Park was outrun by both liberal candidates if she faced either one of them in a two-way race.

Although she heads a three-way race, Ahn Cheol-soo, an independent contender, would beat her if she ran against him in a two-way race, according to Wednesday’s poll by Realmeter. Ahn was backed by 50 percent, while Park received 44.9 percent.

In a two-way race against Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party, Park scored 47.2 percent while Moon got 47.7 percent.

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

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