Truce in Saenuri primary war may be temporary

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Truce in Saenuri primary war may be temporary

The ongoing battle between ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung and the Blue House over open primaries took a breather on Friday as the two sides agreed there was no need to exacerbate the situation.

According to sources in political circles, Kim had a phone call with Hyun Ki-hwan, senior presidential secretary for political affairs, Thursday night, and the two agreed to stop making trouble over primary procedures since the Saenuri Party is going to
form a special organization for further discussions.

“The conflict isn’t going to get worse, and we’ve decided to keep watching the decisions made by the ruling party’s organization,” an official of the Blue House said. “Chairman Kim won’t be mentioning the open primary again.”

Kim told the JoongAng Ilbo on Friday, “I’ll not comment on trivial matters like secured numbers,” a detail in the proposed primaries.

Another official from the ruling party said, “I’ve heard that the two said they should focus on [President Park’s economic reform plan].”

Kim has been under fire from the Blue House and pro-Park Geun-hye faction lawmakers of the ruling party after he reached an agreement with the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) Chairman Moon Jae-in to have open primaries for next April’s general election based on telephone polling of the general public.

Those polls were supposed to use so-called “secured numbers.” Basically a security arrangement, mobile carriers convert actual phone numbers of customers into virtual numbers and provide them to political parties for polling. This is supposed to prevent the party from using phone numbers of known supporters.

After skipping an Armed Forces Day ceremony attended by President Park and Moon on Thursday, Kim
attended the ceremony for Day of Older Persons at the Kim Koo Museum Friday.

However, the cease-fire between Kim and the Blue House is considered temporary because they have not reconciled their differences on reforms of the party’s primary system.

Kim clings to his opinion that the public should decide candidates for the general election next year, which is considered more transparent than the backroom deals of the past, usually called “strategic nominations.”

Pro-Park faction members of the ruling party desire such strategic nominations and are pressing Kim to drop the plan, focusing on the issue of the secured numbers.

“I believe the secured number plan is already discarded,” said Hong Moon-jong, a key member of the faction, in a radio interview. “The party’s special organization will discuss it, but I don’t believe we will actually adopt the plan for the primary procedure.

“Since Kim will follow the decision of the special organization, the conflict seems to be settled,” he continued. “We can still nominate candidates popular with the public under the current regulations of the party.”

BY KIM BONG-MOON, SEO SEUNG-WOOK AND KANG TAE-HWA [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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