Squabble over nomination rules

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Squabble over nomination rules

Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung and Suh Chung-won, a member of the Supreme Council, went head-to-head at the Supreme Council meeting on Thursday over nomination rules for the upcoming general election.

“I will not allow the nomination committee to veer from the nomination rules stipulated by the party’s constitution and regulations,” Kim said. “As the chairman of the party, I have the duty and right to intervene, and I will not approve of party decisions that do not follow the rules.

“The old politics of landing your own people does not, and should not, exist in the Saenuri Party nomination process,” he added.

However, Suh responded that “the nomination process and its methods are to be decided in the nomination committee according to the party’s constitution and regulations, and discussed at the Supreme Council.”

“Chairman Kim should be careful not to say what he approves or disapproves,” Suh added. “The party is not under one-man rule.”

Lee Hahn-koo, chairman of the Saenuri nomination committee, announced on Tuesday that three districts within each of the 17 metropolitan cities and provinces will come under a top-down nomination process.

When Kim again stated that “I will not approve of nomination committee decisions veering off from the party’s constitution and regulations,” Suh shot back with “I do not approve of your statement.”

“That’s enough!” were Kim’s last words before he cut the meeting short by walking out.

Chairman Kim held his own meeting with Hwang Jin-ha, the party’s secretary general, and Rep. Hong Moon-pyo in the chairman’s office while Suh, Kim Tae-ho and Rhee In-je, members of the Supreme Council, held a meeting in the deputy floor leader’s office.

Chairman Kim pledged when he ran for the Saenuri Party chairmanship that he would not wield his influence in a closed-door, top-down nomination process and promised to introduce an open primary.

He also encouraged the then-main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, now called the Minjoo Party of Korea, in July last year to join in his political experiment in introducing an open primary to field candidates for this year’s general elections.

The infighting within the Saenuri Party over nomination rules traces back to the power struggle between President Park Geun-hye’s loyalists and adversaries in the party.

Park’s loyalists in the Saenuri Party are mainly concerned with the weakening of their faction after the general election. Once elected, lawmakers no longer need to heed the Blue House.

“What I worry about in bottom-up nominations is that the highly competitive election left in the hands of voters can lead to a situation worse than the split the opposition party experienced,” Suh said. “See how much the opposition is benefitting from landing their own people in the districts - it is madness to not even attempt it.”

In political circles, Chairman Kim is often portrayed as the leader of Park’s adversaries, thus his outspoken support for open primary elections where Park’s loyalists will have a harder time landing their own people.

In the ongoing negotiations on nomination rules, Kim also has at stake his status as a likely presidential candidate. Lawmakers who are labeled as part of this group support Kim’s rejection of a top-down nomination process.

Secretary General Hwang, known as a close aide of Kim, emphasized Tuesday that the proposal to carry out a strategic nomination process was not agreed to within the committee.

“The old-time trick of using strategic nominations to replace enemies with allies should not be used again this time,” said Park Min-shik, a Saenuri lawmaker known to be one of Park’s adversaries.

Both Park loyalists and adversaries remain adamant in their positions.

“The top-down nomination method is approved within the party’s constitution and regulations,” Lee Hahn-koo said Tuesday. “Even if the Supreme Council rejects the nomination committee’s decision, we can push through once we secure a two-thirds vote within the committee.”

BY HYUN IL-HOON, PARK YU-MI, KIM KYUNG-HEE, CHOI SUN-WOOK and ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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