Many factors will affect local polls

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Many factors will affect local polls


From Left to Right: Choung Byoung-gug, Woo Yoo-chul, Kim Jin-pyo, Won Hye-young

Lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties bidding for candidacies in Gyeonggi’s gubernatorial election in June are becoming more and more anxious about potential variables that could upend their campaign prospects.

From the Saenuri, incumbent four-term lawmakers Choung Byoung-gug and Won Yoo-chul are bidding for Gyeonggi’s top post, and former fourth-term lawmaker Kim Young-sun also announced his intention to compete in the June 4 local elections.

While three members of the ruling party are publicly bidding for the governorship - which has been held by Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo of the Saenuri for two consecutive terms - the most attention has been focused on whether Nam Kyung-pil, another Saenuri lawmaker, will decide to run.

Governor Kim said he will not seek a third term.

Should Nam, a fifth-term lawmaker, decide to run, experts say it would certainly change the landscape of the race as Nam’s popularity is virtually unmatched.

According to a poll by Realmeter on possible Saenuri candidates, conducted from Wednesday to Friday, Nam received an overwhelming 27.5 percent approval rating, while Won and Choung both received ratings in the 6 percent range. In a hypothetical race that pits Nam against Kim Jin-pyo of the Democratic Party and Kim Sung-kon of Ahn Cheol-soo’s envisioned party, the Saenuri lawmaker led the contest with a 45.5 percent support rating, with Kim trailing far behind with a 23.5 percent rating.

Despite Nam’s overwhelming popularity among voters in Gyeonggi, the former journalist has repeatedly said he will not run for the Gyeonggi governorship, instead expressing his intention to run for Saenuri floor leader in the National Assembly.

“I have many important tasks to handle as a lawmaker at the Assembly, for the country and the party,” Nam told the JoongAng Ilbo. “If everyone at the Assembly runs in the local elections, who would be left to look after national affairs?”

Despite Nam’s repeated denials, speculation abounds that he will bow to the Saenuri’s demands to contend in the local elections, hopefully securing for the fourth time a position that has been held by the party for the last 12 years.

Another variable the Saenuri candidates are anxious about is the possibility that Yoo Jeong-bok, the public administration minister, will join the primary. Yoo is a long-time close aide to President Park Geun-hye, and political observers believe she would throw her support behind him as a candidate for the Gyeonggi election if the minister bids for the job.

DP lawmakers Won Hye-young and Kim Jin-pyo, who are bidding for the Gyeonggi governorship, have also been troubled by growing speculation that the main opposition party will eventually yield a candidate to Ahn Cheol-soo’s envisioned party, which will be set up by the end of March.

Rumor has it that Ahn’s party will not produce a candidate for the Seoul mayoral race to allow incumbent Democratic Mayor Park Won-soon’s run as the sole opposition candidate. In exchange, the DP would not yield a candidate for the Gyeonggi election, letting a candidate from Ahn’s party run on the liberal ticket.

“Unifying a candidacy just for the sake of winning an election will only disappoint voters,” Kim Jin-pyo said, adding that a move by the party to make way for a candidate from Ahn’s party will not guarantee a victory.

A Democratic Party official told the JoongAng Ilbo that whether the DP will forgo fielding a candidate for Gyeonggi will depend largely on how competitive a candidate Ahn’s party yields.

BY KIM JUNG-HA, Kang Jin-kyu []
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