Power Struggle Emerging

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Power Struggle Emerging

Calls from within the ruling Millennium Democratic Party for a shakeup momentarily took a back seat on Monday to a full-fledged power struggle among the party's presidential hopefuls.

Representative Rhee In-je, who caused controversy Sunday when he requested that the president nominate the ruling party's presidential candidate in early spring, reiterated the call Monday.

"As we all differ on when the party convention should be held, the matter should be left entirely up to President Kim Dae-jung," Mr. Rhee said. "Lack of a clear-cut schedule will cause confusion."

Polls indicate that Mr. Rhee, a strong presidential contender, enjoys a more positive public image than other possible MDP candidates. Insiders predicted that he might do well if Mr. Kim were to choose him as the party's candidate before the June local elections. But his public statements about the matter earned him a sharp rebuke from his chief rivals for the nomination, Hahn Hwa-kap and Noh Mu-hyun.

"We should be rid of political behavior that takes advantage of the weakness of other candidates and takes advantage of all the mudslinging going on," Mr. Hahn said during a meeting with his supporters in Busan. Mr. Hahn, widely considered something of a rogue within the Donggyo-dong faction, favors nominating a presidential candidate after the June local elections. Analysts said that is because he still needs to strengthen his power base in the party and fine-tune his public image.

Mr. Noh added: "Suggesting that a conspiracy took place when things seemed to be going against him shows a lack of consistency and trust, vital virtues in politics." Mr. Noh, the analysts said, also needs to build up his power base before the nomination process begins.

Mr. Rhee wondered aloud on Sunday whether Mr. Hahn and other members of the old-line Donggyo-dong faction engineered Friday's resignation by all 12 members of the ruling party's Supreme Council to force a party convention in January. Holding the convention in January would mean a new Supreme Council would be elected then, and the presidential candidate would probably be chosen by the council after the June elections.

Mr. Rhee opposes waiting, arguing that the party needs someone to rally around to win the June local elections and have a chance in the presidential race.

Meanwhile, the five reformist groups within the party jointly demanded that Kwon Roh-kap and Park Jie won, two men who exercise a great deal of behind-the-scenes influence over party affairs, resign soon.

by Kim Chong-hyuk

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