Posted : 2012-02-26 18:05
Updated : 2012-02-26 18:05

Ruling party faces mass exodus

Chung Doo-un, an outspoken lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, delivers a speech Sunday denouncing the conservative party’s “opaque” nomination process for the National Assembly elections at the party’s headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul. Yonhap
By Lee Tae-hoon

The governing Saenuri Party will announce today its first batch of nominees for the upcoming National Assembly elections on April 11 amid signs of a possible mass exodus from the increasingly unpopular conservative party.

Rep. Kwon Young-se, secretary-general of the party, said Sunday that the Saenuri Party will endorse a list of candidates finalized by its 11-member screening committee in a general meeting of the party’s emergency committee on Monday.

“The Saenuri Party will announce on Feb. 27 about 20 candidates that have won the party’s ticket to run in the elections in constituencies where only one party member applied and some 20 others for the party’s strategic districts,” the three-term legislator said.

Of 245 constituencies, 31 including Eunpyeong B in Seoul had only one registered applicant. On average, the Saenuri Party received 3.98 applicants per constituency for the inter-party race.

Several incumbent lawmakers, including Reps. Lee Jae-oh, Jeon Jae-hee, Lee Hye-hoon, Kim Seon-dong, had no in-house competitor in the electoral district for which they have applied, but Kwon said that does not mean they will automatically qualify.

“We have yet to finalize all of the candidates for the 31 districts,” he said, noting that a considerable number of them will be eliminated regardless of their status as incumbents and the fact they were the only ones who applied for that constituency.

Kwon refrained from commenting on media reports that Lee Jae-on and Jeon, known as loyal to President Lee Myung-bak will survive the cutoff, while Lee Hye-hoon, a confidant of the party’s interim leader Park Geun-hye, will be disqualified.

“All I can say is that there is a 50 percent chance that the reports are correct,” he said.

Political observers say incumbent lawmakers without an inter-party rival in their registered constituency will suffer a heavy blow to their political career and leave the party once they find out that their names are not on the list.

Those shunned by the Saenuri Party may withdraw their party membership and run as independents in the elections, but will likely face difficulties in removing the stigma of being labeled as unsuitable candidates.

In this regard, Kwon explained that those eliminated in the first round may qualify in a later round given that the party has yet to determine some 80 percent of its candidates.

The Saenuri Party will also announce today some 20 names to run in the party’s strategic electoral areas. The center-right political party plans to designate up to 49 constituencies, which account for about 20 percent of the electoral districts, as strategic locations.

Nevertheless, Rep. Chung Doo-un expressed his dissatisfaction with the party’s nomination process, claiming that the majority of the 11-member screening committee is made up of pro-Park figures and that they favor those who blindly follow the interim party leader.

“If many incompetent contenders win party nominations because of their affiliation to a certain faction, the Saenuri Party will face catastrophic consequences,” he said.

He hinted that a large number of Saenuri Party incumbent lawmakers, including himself, may leave the party if they find the nomination process is flawed and lacking in transparency.

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