Saenuri, Minjoo begin hunt for new leadership

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Saenuri, Minjoo begin hunt for new leadership

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The competition has begun to see who will become the new leaders of the two largest political parties as they scheduled leadership elections in August.

President Park Geun-hye’s Saenuri Party said it will hold a convention to elect its new leadership at the Jamsil Gymnasium in Seoul on Aug. 9, igniting competition among senior politicians to head the conservative party and its 122 lawmakers.

“We decided to hold the leadership election sooner rather than later,” Saenuri spokesman Rep. Ji Sang-wuk said Monday after a meeting of the party’s emergency innovation committee.

Ji added that the committee, headed by interim leader Kim Hee-ok, also discussed a plan to streamline the leadership system. Another meeting will take place on Thursday and, he said, the issue of bringing back independent lawmakers who left the party before the election will be discussed.

All Saenuri leaders stepped down after a crushing defeat in the April general election. Kim, former chairman of the Government Public Ethics Committee, was invited to reinvent the party in May, while the party elected Rep. Chung Jin-suk as its new floor leader.

Factional leaders of the party agreed in May that the party’s Constitution and regulations must be revised before the national convention in order to separate the election of the chairman and the election of the Supreme Council members.

As of now, one leadership election is held and the candidate who wins the most votes becomes chairman while the second to fifth-place winners become Supreme Council members.

While no one formally made a bid, speculations were high that Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan, former deputy prime minister of the economy, will run for the chairmanship. Choi, who won a fourth term in April, is considered a leader of the pro-Park faction.

Speculations are also high that other Park loyalists will also make bids. Reps. Won Yoo-chul, Lee Ju-young, Lee Jung-hyun and Hong Moon-jong are the Park associates likely to run.

Rep. Choung Byoung-gug, a fifth-term lawmaker, and Rep. Na Kyung-won, a four-term lawmaker, are not members of the Park faction but are expected to run in the election.

Meanwhile, complaints were made Tuesday that the wrong date had been chosen for the leadership election and the party must postpone the event.

Rep. Ha Tae-keung and other lawmakers said the national convention on Aug. 9 will fall during the Olympic Games in Brazil, which takes place from Aug. 5 to 21, and the public will subsequently show little interest in the convention.

“Holding the national convention during the Olympic Games means the party is not interested in winning the next presidential election,” Ha said Tuesday.

The Minjoo Party, which also commands 122 National Assembly seats, will hold its convention on Aug. 27 to elect the new leadership.

The Minjoo Party has decided to change its leadership election system. A chairmanship election will take place separately from the selection of 10 senior representatives. In the past, one election was held, and the top winner became the chairman while the next four became Supreme Council members.

Starting from the August national convention, the Minjoo Party will select five regional representatives and five representatives for women, seniors, young adults and laborers, in addition to the new chairman.

Rep. Choo Mi-ae, a fifth-term lawmaker, already declared her bid for the chairmanship election. “I will prepare the party to win the presidential election,” Choo said Sunday.

Other senior lawmakers including Rep. Song Young-gil, Park Young-sun, Lee Jong-kul, Kim Jin-pyo and Kim Boo-kyum were also considered possible runners for the chairmanship.

Because running in a chairmanship election prevents a candidate from running in senior representative elections, senior Minjoo politicians are likely to communicate to gauge their chances, after which more competitive contenders will run to head the party in August.

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

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