Opposition wants to democratize, but worries about a 'me too' label

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Opposition wants to democratize, but worries about a 'me too' label

Feeling pressure from the ruling party's adoption of a U.S.-style primary, the main opposition Grand National Party debated Wednesday how it could involve ordinary voters in the process of picking its own presidential candidate.

At a meeting of the party's committee in charge of preparations for its 2002 national convention, Park Geun-hye, a party vice president, proposed allowing 100,000 voters - 50,000 party members and 50,000 nonmembers - to vote for the party's presidential candidates as the hopefuls tour the nation's 16 municipalities and provinces. Votes would be allocated proportionally based on a region's population.

The party's new leadership and candidate for the December presidential election will be chosen at a convention on May 9 in Seoul.

Ms. Park's proposal is similar to the ruling Millennium Democratic Party's plan to select its candidate at a convention on April 20 in Seoul. The ruling party will invite 70,000 voters, a large percentage of whom will not be party members, to vote in primaries to be held in the 16 electoral regions.

But some GNP members cautioned that a U.S.-style primary system would involve more spending by candidates to woo voters. The critics also noted the difficulty the GNP would face in finding voters for primaries in regions like the Jeolla provinces, where the party power base is weak. The Jeolla provinces, also known as the Honam region, are a Millennium Democratic Party stronghold.

Worried that too much similarity with the ruling party's plan could hurt them, some Grand Nationals, including chairman Park Kwan-yong, proposed that voter opinion be reflected in the nomination process through a telephone poll. Ms. Park, the daughter of former President Park Chung Hee and a challenger to the party leader, Lee Hoi-chang, in the race for the nomination, opposed the idea. She said the reliability of poll results can vary and added that the idea does not mesh with laws governing political parties.

by Kim Sung-tak

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