Contenders want change in primary rules
By Kang Hyun-kyung
As Park Geun-hye emerged as the de facto winner of the April 11 National Assembly elections, other presidential hopefuls in the ruling camp have seemed disheartened.
There appears to be virtually no way to defeat Park as she again proved to be an unrivaled presidential favorite through the recent elections.
Park led public opinion surveys taken after the elections, although her support remained too close to IT mogul Ahn Cheol-soo, who has yet to declare any presidential ambitions.
While taking a pause, some hopefuls had an “A-ha” moment, concluding there is a way to win the primary. If the ruling party changes the rules to select a candidate to run in the presidential election on the Saenuri Party ticket, Park’s rivals calculate, there is still a chance for them to beat the mighty woman politician in the primary.
This is the rationale behind Kim Moon-soo’s declaration of his bid to run in the primary race that will come at the expense of his gubernatorial post, despite a seemingly slim chance.
In a radio program Monday, the governor of Gyeonggi Province called for changing the primary rules, insisting that the current rules are unlikely to guide party members to the right candidate.
Kim called on the party to leave the decision to pick a candidate in the hands of citizens, not party members.
Under the current rule, the ruling Saenuri Party will select a presidential candidate based on the combined results of 50 percent of votes from party delegates and grass-roots members, 30 percent of support from citizens and the remaining 20 percent from public opinion surveys.
Kim said a candidate who is not supported by the majority of citizens could be chosen if the current rules remain unchanged and consequently the ruling party could lose the presidential poll.
In previous competitions, Saenuri Party members witnessed a discrepancy between public support from non-partisans and party members. The 2007 primary to select a presidential candidate to run in the presidential race on the then Grand National Party (GNP, now the Saenuri Party) ticket was a prime example.
Park won much more votes from GNP members than her rival Lee Myung-bak did, but the results were reversed after surveys of non-party members were made public.
Park lost the primary by a thin margin as Lee’s rating in the survey was 8 percent higher than hers.
The primary taught her a bitter lesson that she was not as popular as her rival among citizens.
The same primary results now give hope to Park’s rivals, including Kim.
Regarding the request from Governor Kim to rewrite primary rules, Park has yet to give her answer.
Park had a tough time back in 2007 when the GNP leadership was trying to set primary rules. Her aides tried to make their voice heard in the decision-making but it was dominated by her rival Lee at that time.
Park’s aides alleged at that time that the primary rules were made in favor of Lee, blasting then GNP leader Kang Jae-sup for siding with the former Seoul mayor.
It remains to be seen whether Park will accept the call from Governor Kim and other challengers to change the rules.