Ahn Cheol-soo says let the people pick unified candidate
Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential contender from the minor opposition People’s Party, officially proposed on Sunday to main opposition People Power Party (PPP) candidate Yoon Suk-yeol that the public should decide which of them should be the opposition’s unified candidate in the March presidential race.
Speaking via a live press conference on YouTube, the People’s Party candidate said a single candidate from the opposition bloc is necessary to “change the government, end the old [party] system, and forge national unity.”
Ahn proposed that both he and Yoon hold a joint announcement of the opposition’s “vision for the next government’s agenda and tasks for the future,” with both candidates pledging to uphold the same political manifesto before proceeding to a popular referendum on which contender should represent the opposition in the election.
The People’s Party leader, who ran in the Seoul mayoral by-election in April, ended up dropping out of that race to support the PPP candidate and eventual winner, Oh Se-hoon, after Oh emerged as the clear favorite among the two in a survey of 1,600 mobile phone users.
At Sunday’s press conference, Ahn proposed using the same kind of survey to determine whether he or Yoon would run as the opposition’s unified candidate. “If we use the same method as the April 8 Seoul mayoral by-election, we can unify our campaigns quickly as Yoon has said previously.”
While Ahn trails far behind Yoon in public opinion surveys on the presidential candidates, recording 7.7 percent support compared to Yoon’s 41.6 percent in a Realmeter survey of 3,040 eligible voters conducted between Feb. 6 and 11, the PPP candidate is currently neck-and-neck with his rival, the ruling Democratic Party’s Lee Jae-myung, who garnered 39.1 percent support in the same survey.
The survey had a confidence interval of 95 percent and a 1.8 margin of error.
The tight race between Yoon and Lee, who have seen their standing in the polls alternately rise and slip in response to accusations of past misbehavior by their wives, has led the PPP candidate in recent weeks to pressure Ahn drop out of the race and join forces with him instead of running an independent campaign.
However, while Yoon leads Ahn in surveys that ask who they prefer among four presidential candidates — Yoon, Lee, Ahn and Sim Sang-jung of the minor progressive Justice Party — recent surveys show that in hypothetical races where only one of the two is running as the opposition candidate, Ahn enjoys higher overall support.
According to a survey conducted on 1,007 adults by Gallup Korea on Feb. 7 and 8, 50.6 percent of those questioned preferred Ahn to Yoon as the unified opposition candidate.
Hypothetical scenarios where one of the two had dropped out show Ahn would also be more competitive than Yoon against Lee.
According to the same survey, Ahn would garner 45.6 percent support as the unified opposition candidate against 35.9 percent for Lee, compared to 44.8 percent support for Yoon against 39.5 percent support for Lee if Ahn dropped out.
During the press conference, Ahn suggested he had put forth a formal proposal to Yoon to field a single opposition candidate among the pair to put an end to the pressure from the PPP candidate’s camp.
“Since [Yoon] insists that we should field a unified candidate, even as I repeatedly said I would see this race to the end, I have decided it would be better to make a pre-emptive proposal that leaves the decision to the judgement of the people,” Ahn said.
However, Ahn’s proposal received a lukewarm reception from Yoon, who said in a press conference in Songpa District on Sunday that he would take some time “to think about it” but that it was “disappointing in certain aspects” without providing further clarification.
PPP spokesman Lee Yang-soo said that while the party “positively views” Ahn’s idea to present a unified opposition candidate, it also fears the kind of public opinion survey proposed by Ahn could be influenced by those who back the DP to support the wrong candidate.
The party spokesman appeared to call on Ahn to simply drop out of the race in favor of Yoon, saying, “We look forward to a courageous decision from Ahn to unify the opposition by respecting the public's desire for a change of government.”
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]