Candidates pledge a total overhaul of politics

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Candidates pledge a total overhaul of politics


Left: Park Geun-hye, presidential candidate of the ruling Saenuri Party, appeals to her supporters on Saturday in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul, after giving a campaign speech. Right: Moon Jae-in, presidential candidate of the main opposition Democratic United Party, reacts to his supporters on Saturday in the same square after stumping. [YONHAP]

With 10 days left before the presidential election, political reform continued to be the selling point for both front-runners Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in as they issued strong pledges to reshape the current political order.

Moon, presidential candidate of the Democratic United Party, held a press conference yesterday and promised to launch a grand unity cabinet to invite all the liberals who contributed to his presidential victory to take part in his government.

He also pledged to end politics marred with factionalism and regionalism, promising to shake up the political order by creating a new catchall party.

“Not only the Democratic United Party, but also the supporters of the former candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, Progressive Justice Party, various members of the civic community and healthy and pragmatic centrist conservatives will form a national alliance in this election,” Moon said. “And this strong solidarity will be the main agent of the new political order.”

Moon promised that those people will prepare the new system in the presidential transition team if he wins election.

“The effort should be more than just remodeling the facade of an old building,” he said. “We should construct a completely new building.

“We must overcome the ideological division between the liberal and the conservative. Everyone who agrees with the values of democracy, welfare and peace must be the centerpiece of governance and new politics.”

Another key part of Moon’s political reform road map was launching a new catchall party.

“I will go for the ‘People’s Party’ with all the people who want to stop the conservative Saenuri Party from winning another election and hope for new politics,” Moon said. “The DUP and I are ready to give up all vested interests.”

The idea was evident that Moon was presenting the blueprint of his government and party to attract undecided voters. Although Moon did not say it specifically, it appeared that he was after dividing the power between the president and the new catchall party, which could possibly guarantee Ahn’s safe landing in politics.

Moon also released his book of 119 pledges in 10 topics. The DUP candidate included Ahn’s pledge to lower the number of lawmakers and establish a watchdog on the administration inside the National Assembly, similar to the U.S. Congress’ Government Accountability Office.

Until Ahn’s debut in the presidential race, observers largely expected that the election would be a competition of welfare pledges between Park and Moon. Ahn, however, swept public attention with his agenda of political reform and the two candidates have been catching up with it, although Ahn no longer is running in the race.

Park yesterday also promised that she will implement not only her political reform pledges, but also promises presented by her rivals.

Ahn Dae-hee, head of Park’s political reform committee, held a press conference and announced the plan on behalf of Park. According to the plan, Park promised to create a consultative body on national reform policies if she wins election.

The presidential organization will include ministers and senior Blue House secretaries as well as experts and civic activists. One-third of the group will be filled with members recommended by opposition parties, Park promised.

And the Park campaign didn’t hide that they were after the votes of the Ahn supporters. “She will embrace various opinions including pledges of the former independent candidate,” Ahn Dae-hee said. “And operate the consultative body to push them forward.”

The Park campaign also reiterated pledges to create a cabinet free from regionalism and factionalism. Reforming the prosecution and improving cooperation with the National Assembly were also stressed.

After announcing their political reform road maps, the Park and Moon camps attacked each other’s pledges.

“Moon and Ahn must clearly tell the people how they agreed to split up the power,” said Representative Cho Hae-jin, spokesman for the Saenuri Party’s election committee. “Moon’s coalition government plan now became the most important issue that needs to be judged during the next 10 days before the election.”

Cho also said it was evident that the power split was the key behind Ahn’s decision to more actively support Moon’s campaign. “Ahn must say clearly if he will join that party and play the role as its face-saver or not,” Cho said.

The Moon campaign’s spokesman Representative Jin Sung-joon also sneered at Park’s political reform pledges.

“They promised to listen to and push forward various opinions presented during the election,” said Jin. “If Park had agreed to extend the voting hour, we could say that her pledge is sincere.”

Calling the rival campaign’s announcement a “makeshift pledge hastily put together” to counter Moon’s new political order plan, Jin said, “It just shows Park’s lack of political imagination.”

While both Park and Moon are after the political reform agendas initiated by Ahn, latest polls showed that Ahn’s decision to more aggressively support Moon’s campaign was not creating a significant impact.

In the JoongAng Ilbo poll, conducted from Thursday till Saturday, Park was leading the race with 49 percent, while Moon scored 37.9 percent. Ahn declared on Thursday that he will actively support Moon and participated in the DUP candidate’s stumping in Busan the next day.

In the previous JoongAng Ilbo poll with 1,200 voters conducted on Nov. 24, Park earned 46.6 percent while Moon earned 41.1 percent. In the next poll with 2,000 voters conducted from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, Park won 48.1 percent and Moon 37.8 percent.

By Ser Myo-ja []

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