Ruling party leans toward open primary nominations

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Ruling party leans toward open primary nominations

The ruling Saenuri Party’s special reform committee passed a resolution calling for the party to introduce a full-scale, open-primary system for the 2016 general election, a proposal that, if realized, would drastically change the way it nominates its candidates.

The committee’s decision also means that the Saenuri will abolish the top-down nomination system that has long dominated Korean politics in which party leaders dole out nomination tickets to election hopefuls.

The long-held practice has often drawn criticism and internal protest, as some nominations in the past are believed to have been made based on perceived loyalty or connections to party leaders regardless of a potential candidate’s competence or chances of winning.

This type of nomination system has been pointed to by many observers as one of the reasons why lawmakers often blindly follow their party’s policy line despite individual principles.

“The reform committee has agreed on two fundamental principles: that the party should stop the top-down nomination system and instead introduce a full-scale open primary [for the 2016 general election],” Rep. Ahn Hyoung-hwan, who sits on the reform committee, said Monday at the National Assembly following a two-hour meeting with committee members and Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung.

The lawmaker added that the committee will discuss the decision with experts to determine specific rules for the primary, such as whether the party will grant equal or lesser weight to a vote from a person who is not a member of the ruling party.

Since he was elected to chairman at the party convention in July, Kim has repeatedly called for the introduction of an open primary and abolishing the top-down nomination system.

Kim himself fell victim to the top-down party nomination process in 2012 when he failed to win his bid to run in the general elections. Analysts at the time speculated that his soured relationship with Park Geun-hye, who was then the ruling party leader, had contributed to his loss.

Kim entered the National Assembly in a by-election the next year and is now considered a potential presidential contender for the 2017 election.

The reform committee next will present its proposal at an upcoming meeting of 158 Saenuri lawmakers.


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