Saenuri VIPs to get tougher races

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Saenuri VIPs to get tougher races

The ruling party is mulling a plan to run high-profile candidates in difficult races in Seoul in April’s general election, a shift from a tradition of giving easy districts to heavyweights.

The Saenuri Party’s leadership discussed Monday the new campaign strategy.

Ahn Dae-hee, a former Supreme Court justice, was cited during the Supreme Council meeting as an example of a heavyweight who should be deployed in a crucial battleground in Seoul.

“If someone like Ahn, who is widely supported by the people thanks to his reputation for reform, runs in a key battleground in the capital region, the party’s competitiveness in the capital region will be heightened and he can make a serious contribution to our victory,” said Rep. Won Yoo-chul, floor leader of the ruling party.

After Won’s remarks, Saenuri leaders discussed plans for other prominent candidates in a closed-door session. They discussed fielding Ahn in a constituency in Gangseo District, southern Seoul, and former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik in a constituency in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, a source told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Both Gangseo and Gangnam are expected to gain a new seat in the National Assembly in an ongoing constituency remapping as their populations have soared.

“In Gangseo, a Saenuri candidate will face a tough race,” said an official who attended the meeting. Ahn, a former prosecutor-turned judge, was reportedly preparing to run in Haeundae District of Busan, a stronghold of the Saenuri Party and an easy race.

Gangnam is known to be a stronghold of the Saenuri Party, and the ruling party leaders said Kim should be given an easy race because he ran in the Seoul mayoral primary during last year’s local election to help the party generate publicity.

Although the Saenuri Party controls 157 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, the conservative ruling party has been weak in Seoul. Of the 48 districts in Seoul, the Saenuri Party won only 16 in the last general election.

At the time, the Democratic Party, the predecessor of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), won 30 and the now-disbanded Unified Progressive Party won two.

During last year’s local election, the NPAD continued to prevail in Seoul, winning the Seoul mayoral race as well as 20 out of 25 district head races.

After the Supreme Council meeting on Monday, Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung told reporters that he will ask prominent politicians to make sacrifices to ensure the party’s victory. He said those who have already declared bids will be asked to change constituencies if the party deems it necessary.

A Kim associate said any new constituencies created by the electoral remapping will be without incumbent lawmakers, so the party can nominate anyone it wants without holding a primary.

According to sources, Saenuri leaders also discussed Lee Hye-hoon, a former Supreme Council member, and Cho Yoon-sun, a former presidential senior secretary for political affairs, running in difficult races. Both Lee and Cho already declared bids for Seocho A District of Seoul, a Saenuri stronghold.

The leadership also discussed whether former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who planned to run in Seoul’s Jongno District, should be sent to a tougher race in Seoul.

The Saenuri leadership also approved Monday the formation of an internal committee that will decide nomination rules. Secretary-general Hwang Jin-ha will head the 13-member committee. Two deputy secretary-generals, head of the strategy and planning and nine lawmakers will participate in creating nomination rules.

Of the 13 members, six are considered loyalists of President Park Geun-hye.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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