Lee Jae-myung has early lead in race for DP chairmanship
Lee Jae-myung, candidate for the Democratic Party (DP) in last March's presidential election, swept the first round of regional voting to elect a new party chairman.
Lee won 74.81 percent of the vote Saturday in the northeastern province of Gangwon, the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby North Gyeongsang.
DP lawmakers Park Yong-jin and Kang Hoon-sik won 20.31 percent and 4.88 percent of those votes respectively.
The next round of regional voting on the southern island of Jeju and in the western port city of Incheon was taking place Sunday.
Regional voting is open to DP members who pay party dues.
The new leader will be selected based on voting by due-paying members — which carries the greatest weight — and separate rounds by party delegates and DP general members, who do not pay dues. Opinion polls are also considered in the final choice.
According to new rules for the leadership contest announced on July 4, due-paying members’ votes will account for 40 percent of the final leadership decision, with party delegates, general members, and opinion polls accounting for 30 percent, 5 percent, and 25 percent respectively.
The new rules give 15 percent greater weight to public opinion polls than before, reducing the voting power of party delegates by the same amount.
The changes are part of a party effort to become more in tune with public opinion following Lee’s loss in the March presidential election and the party’s dismal showing in June local elections, in which it won only five out of 17 metropolitan mayoral and provincial governor posts.
Candidates in the party leadership race will undergo 13 more rounds of regional voting after the two weekend votes.
Speaking to reporters in Daegu, Lee expressed gratitude to DP members for handing him an early win in the leadership vote.
“I am thankful that I have been given more support than I had expected,” Lee said, adding that he would “do [his] utmost in the many votes to come.”
His competitor Park expressed disappointment that Lee had emerged as the overwhelming favorite in the first round of regional voting.
“I did not expect Lee to dominate in the regional vote among dues-paying party members,” Park said.
Lee was seen a frontrunner in the party leadership contest even before it started, with party observers and insiders alike using a shortened Korean phrase meaning “Lee Jae-myung is going to be the chairman anyway” to refer to the leadership contest.
Lee, who served as Gyeonggi governor before he entered the presidential fray in 2021, is being investigated by prosecutors for allegations that his wife made provincial civil servants run errands and used his government-issued corporate card for personal purchases and food deliveries.
There are eight contenders in a race for places on the DP’s executive committee.
The next party chairman and members of the executive committee will be finalized at a national convention in Seoul on Aug. 28.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]