Saenuri leader to face primary

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Saenuri leader to face primary

Ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung will have to go through a primary in order to win the nomination for the general election in April, the party’s nomination committee decided Sunday.

The committee, led by Rep. Lee Han-koo, announced Sunday night its nomination decisions for some districts. It was the fifth announcement of its kind since the committee began evaluating the competitiveness of its candidates.

Rep. Kim, the fifth-term lawmaker representing Busan’s Jung-Yeongdo District, will also have to go through a primary. His rivals are Kim Yong-won, a former lawyer, and Choi Hong, a former investment banker.

Primaries are required for other senior lawmakers known as key associates of President Park Geun-hye. Reps. Suh Chung-won, Rhee In-je, Hong Moon-jong and Han Sun-kyo will have to win their nominations at the primaries as well.

The party, however, decided to award a nomination without a primary to Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan, former deputy prime minister for economic affairs in the Park administration. Choi is known as a primary Park loyalist.

Nineteen other politicians were also granted nominations without primaries. Reps. Chung Doo-un and Kim Yong-tae and former Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo will run in the April 13 election without having to go through primaries.

In the general election, voters will elect 300 lawmakers - 253 to represent electoral districts and 47 proportional lawmakers to represent political parties.

The ruling party continued to make nomination announcements on Monday as well as primary plans. So far, it has finalized candidates in 122 districts. Of its sitting lawmakers, 12 failed to win nominations. Of those 12, only five were ousted based on opinion polls.

Before Monday’s announcement, Lee, the committee chairman, visited the party’s press center and disclosed the criteria considered in its evaluation.

“Those who do not possess the dignity of a lawmaker, those who acted against the party’s identity and those who enjoyed the benefit of reelection in districts in which easy victories were guaranteed will be eliminated,” he said.

A lawmaker representing a South Gyeongsang region told the JoongAng Ilbo on the condition of anonymity that the announcement sounded “like a declaration of war against Rep. Yoo Seong-min and his associates” in the nominations for Daegu.

Yoo, a three-term lawmaker who was once a key Park aide, parted bitterly with the president after a disagreement last year. He was forced to resign as Saenuri floor leader after the president criticized his negotiating tactics in the legislature, calling them a “politics of betrayal.”

An official on the nomination committee said it aims to complete the nomination process by the end of this week, including the controversial districts in Daegu, where speculation has grown that the president was trying to influence the selections.

Daegu has 11 districts, but the party has only announced nominations for one. Yoo represents Daegu Dong B District.

Park loyalists have consistently argued that Yoo and his associates have a different philosophy and political identity from the Saenuri Party, based on Yoo’s previous speeches. As the ruling party’s floor leader, Yoo gave an address at the National Assembly in April 2015 criticizing the Park administration’s promise that more welfare benefits would be provided without raising taxes.

So far, about 500 candidates have applied to be Saenuri Party’s proportional candidates, the JoongAng Ilbo reported. Sunday was the ruling party’s registration deadline.

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

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