Saenuri chair contenders make their case

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Saenuri chair contenders make their case

The ruling party’s chairmanship race is heating up as contenders held a series of press conferences on Sunday to announce their pledges and visions.

The Saenuri Party will hold its national convention on Aug. 9 to elect its new chairman and members of the Supreme Council. Following a humiliating defeat in the April general election, the party decided to overhaul its leadership system by largely reinforcing the power of the chairman.

The Supreme Council will have nine members including the chairman, floor leader, policy maker, four elected members and one member appointed by the chairman. The party has also allocated one seat on the leadership for a member younger than 45 in order to appeal to younger voters.

Two separate elections will take place at the national convention to elect the chairman and Supreme Council members.

It remains to be seen if a primary will take place for the chairmanship race, as the party has decided to allow no more than six contenders to run. If seven or more register, a primary will take place to cut down the pool to six.

If more than 12 register for the four elected Supreme Council posts, a primary will also take place.

As of Sunday, six politicians have declared their bids to run for chairman. Among the loyalists of President Park Geun-hye, Reps. Lee Joo-young, Lee Jung-hyun and Han Sun-kyo are running. Among the Park adversaries are Reps. Choung Byoung-gug, Kim Yong-tae and Joo Ho-young.

Rep. Kim held a press conference on Sunday to announce his platform. The reformist promised to completely overhaul the party’s candidate nomination system.

“Nominations are the flower of a political party, but our flower is putrid rather than fragrant. When a few decide nominations behind closed doors, the flower is bound to stink,” Kim said, in an apparent attack on Park loyalists who were criticized for controlling the nomination process for the April general election.

Rep. Choung also promised to reform the nomination system in a press conference Sunday. He pledged to finalize the presidential primary rules by the end of the year in order to give candidates more time to properly campaign.

He also pledged to amend the constitution before next year’s presidential election to introduce a new governance system and replace the current five-year single-term presidency.

Rep. Lee Joo-young made clear that his campaign would be relying on his ties to the president. “It is very unnatural to deny my identity as a Park loyalist,” he said. Lee visited the birthplace of the late President Park Chung Hee, the current president’s father, in the afternoon.

Rep. Lee Jung-hyun, a close ally of the president, also held a press conference Sunday and promised reform to the nomination process. He said the party should vet possible contenders at all times rather than select candidates on the eve of an election.

The main opposition Minjoo Party, which scored a victory in the April general election, will also hold its national convention later in August on the 27th. Reps. Song Young-gil and Choo Mi-ae, and Kim Sang-kon, who headed the opposition party’s reform initiatives last year, are in the running.

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

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