Feud over Saenuri primary as Kim protests rules

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Feud over Saenuri primary as Kim protests rules

Former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, seeking to win the Saenuri Party’s nomination for Seoul mayoral race, suspended his campaign yesterday and turned off his mobile phone.

The move appeared to be a sort of warning to the ruling party that he may withdraw from the primary if the party’s nomination management committee does not stop what he considers its unfair treatment toward him.

Kim’s protest came a day after the nomination committee, which is in charge of setting primary rules for selecting Saenuri candidates for the Seoul mayoral race, decided to hold a three-way primary contest, pitting Kim against both seven-term lawmaker Chung Mong-joon and former two-term lawmaker Lee Hye-hoon.

The decision was in contrast to Kim’s demand that the party arrange a two-way contest for the final primary that would see him face off against Chung.

Political observers speculate that Kim prefers the two-way contest to the three-way vote because he believes Lee’s supporters would be more likely to vote for him if she is pushed out of the running.

Many also believe Kim’s protest yesterday carries the potential for an outright boycott of the primary and is a reflection of his dissatisfaction with the party’s decision to include Lee in the final primary despite that fact that her popularity ratings lag far behind those for him and Chung.

Yoon Won-joong, the director of Kim’s campaign team, visited the Saenuri’s headquarters in Yeouido, western Seoul, yesterday and met with party leader Hwang Woo-yea to lodge a complaint against what he claimed was the party’s “unfair” treatment” toward the former prime minister.

“Kim made a difficult choice deciding to run in the Seoul mayoral election in the hopes of a victory [for the Saenuri],” Yoon said during his meeting with Hwang, adding that the party had taken number of steps that put Kim at a disadvantage in the race.

Yoon also said Kim will have no choice but to stop his campaign if the party does not correct its actions. The primary, set for April 30, will determine the Saenuri candidate in the Seoul mayoral race. The winner will face off against incumbent Mayor Park Won-soon of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

Yoo Seong-sik, who acts as the spokesperson on Kim’s campaign team, held a press briefing yesterday at the National Assembly, where he said that Kim will decide what steps to take after assessing the Saenuri’s efforts to meet his demands for a fair race.

One official from Kim’s campaign team said that Kim felt humiliated by the way the Saenuri’s nomination committee had treated him.

The former prime minister’s decision yesterday to cancel his schedule reflects the growing dissatisfaction he has felt toward the party over the primary process.

Kim has seen the number of his demands for the primary procedures rejected by the Saenuri’s nomination committee since he formally announced his bid for mayor on March 16.

He originally suggested the ruling party hold separate primary votes across four electorates within the capital city - an idea that was later turned down.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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