NPAD’s hostility toward Lee results in backlash

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NPAD’s hostility toward Lee results in backlash

Banners went up over the weekend in Chungcheong region vowing retribution for the opposition party’s attempts to prevent the appointment of prime ministerial nominee Lee Wan-koo during his confirmation hearing last week.

Lawmakers from the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) hit Lee with a raft of allegations that raised questions over whether he is qualified to serve in the cabinet’s No. 2 position.

While the opposition continued to demand that Lee withdraw his nomination, attention turned to public opinion in Chungcheong, a swing state and Lee’s home region.

In a poll conducted by Realmeter from Wednesday through Friday, 54.8 percent of respondents from Daejeon, Sejong and other cities in North and South Chungcheong said they support the embattled nominee, while 39.3 percent disapproved of him.

The percentage of approval is much higher for the former South Chungcheong governor than polls conducted elsewhere. In a nationwide poll of 1,500 adults, 51.9 percent opposed Lee’s appointment while 38.7 percent supported it.

Over the weekend, banners that hint at political retribution against the NPAD were hung in many places in Chungcheong. The banners read, “We will see what happens in the next general and presidential elections if a Chungcheong nominee for prime minister gets knocked out.”

The anti-NPAD sentiment in Chungcheong could set off a debate within the opposition over whether they should continue to demand that Lee bow out. The political implications of criticizing Lee could be immense in the swing-vote region, which is largely independent from political regionalism, a characteristic that sets Chungcheong apart from Jeolla and Gyeongsang regions.

But it is not clear whether the banners are an accurate reflection of the public’s opinion of NPAD, as many opposition supporters suspect that they were put up by ruling party supporters.

“The press got it wrong [that voters in Chungcheong are upset with the opposition],” NPAD Rep. Lee Sang-min, who represents Yuseong District in Daejeon, said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. “Negative sentiment about Lee is greater than the positive, and people think that he is unfit to serve the role. It goes against the pride of Chungcheong people to say that they want to see a prime ministerial nominee pass his confirmation just because he is from Chungcheong despite his lack of qualifications.”

Though North and South Chungcheong are the only provinces in the country in which a majority of people want Lee to be appointed as prime minister, the Saenuri and NPAD spent the weekend closely watching for any shifts in the public’s opinion of Lee.

The Saenuri is determined to put a vote forward on Lee at a plenary session on Monday even if the opposition boycotts it.

The NPAD has three options for dealing with the upcoming vote. It could boycott the plenary session, attend the session then leave the conference hall to protest the vote just before it happens, or its lawmakers could cast “no” votes.

For Lee to be approved, half of the Assembly’s lawmakers must vote “yes” and only half of its 295 sitting lawmakers must be present to hold a plenary session. Given the Saenuri’s parliamentary majority with 158 seats, it could still approve the nomination even in the face of an all-out protest by the NPAD.

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

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