Top politicians register to run in DP presidential primary
The ruling party’s presidential primary registration started Monday, and top politicians such as Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung will join the race to represent the Democratic Party (DP) in the March 2020 election.
“Lee will register his candidacy on Wednesday,” Rep. Park Hong-keun of the DP, a key aide to Lee, said Monday. “He will announce his bid on Thursday.”
The DP started receiving applications from candidates on Monday and will accept them until Wednesday. It will hold a sort of preliminary round on July 11 to select six contenders who will formally participate in the party’s primary race. The six winners will be chosen in the preliminary primary through two sets of opinion polls. A general public opinion poll will count as 50 percent and the party members’ poll will constitute the other half.
The DP will elect its presidential candidate in the main primary in September.
Nine politicians including Lee are planning to join the DP’s primary. Reps. Park Yong-jin and Lee Kwang-jae; Gangwon Gov. Choi Moon-soon; South Chungcheong Gov. Yang Seung-jo; former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun have already made public their runs.
Rep. Kim Du-kwan and former DP Chairman Lee Nak-yon will also announce their bids in early July.
Gangwon Governor Choi was the first to register his candidacy with the party on Monday.
Governor Lee is a clear frontrunner among all DP politicians. In the latest opinion poll released by the Korea Society Opinion Institute on Monday, Lee scored 28.4 percent as the next president, ranked second overall, after former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl.
Yoon’s rating went down by 5.6 percentage points from the previous poll to mark 32.4 percent in the most recent poll, while Lee’s rating went up by 3.4 percentage points.
Last week, the two had a gap of 13 percentage points, which narrowed to 4 percentage points this week.
In this week’s poll, former DP Chairman Lee Nak-yon was ranked third with 11.5 percent. Rep. Hong Joon-pyo followed with 6.4 percent, and former Justice Minister Choo scored 4.7 percent.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Chung and Rep. Lee Kwang-jae said Monday that they will compete and merge their candidacies by July 5. They are both loyalists of the late President Roh Moo-hyun, a longtime ally of current President Moon Jae-in. Chung and Lee both promised to uphold Roh’s political philosophy.
Chung served as the commerce minister in the Roh administration and chaired the ruling Uri Party, a predecessor of the DP. Lee started his political career as an aide to Roh.
Political observers said the Chung-Lee merger will eventually trigger more candidates to unify candidacies to confront Governor Lee. Other minor candidates such as Rep. Kim Du-kwan, also a Roh loyalist, and governors Yang and Choi will likely join the candidate consolidation plan, DP sources said.
The DP will elect its presidential candidate through a primary on Sept. 5, but if no one scores a majority vote, there will be a runoff voting to elect the final winner on Sept. 10.
Over the past weeks, DP politicians were split over the presidential primary schedule. Lawmakers close to presidential contenders and former prime ministers Chung and Lee Nak-yon have demanded that the primary be postponed until November in order to attract more public attention.
Lawmakers supporting Governor Lee, however, protested the delay, demanding that the primary be hold as scheduled.
The DP’s Supreme Council put an end to the confrontation on Friday and announced that it will maintain the original schedule.
BY SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]