Friends or foes?
By Lee Tae-hoon
Will the two mix and match for a joint bid or go their separate ways with the risk of certain defeat at the hands of the ruling Saenuri Party’s presidential candidate Park Geun-hye?
Soon, the first look will be allowed at the feasibility of the bids of the main opposition Democratic United Party’s (DUP) candidate Moon Jae-in and the undeclared but potential one of Ahn Cheol-soo.
Ahn, the software-mogul turned professor, will announce Wednesday whether he will run in the Dec. 19 presidential election, a spokesman said Monday.
The disclosure of the announcement schedule comes on the heels of the nomination of Moon as the DUP’s standard bearer.
After Moon’s win, pundits said his biggest challenge will be to forge a unified opposition front with Ahn.
Political watchers say it is unlikely that both of them will run in the presidential election as this will split the liberal vote and ensure a victory for Park.
Surveys also show that Moon, a first term lawmaker, and Ahn have no option, but to unite to defeat Park, who enjoys solid popularity among the country’s conservatives and older generation.
“The two will likely avoid a three-way race, which will all but hand over the presidency to Park due to the split of the opposition vote,” a survey expert said.
Lee Sook-hyun, a spokeswoman for Ahn, argued that it was too early to discuss a merger as the popular professor of Seoul National University has yet to declare his political ambitions.
“We need to wait until Ahn announces his plans,” she said.
A DUP official said “all options are on the table for negotiations" as long as it can win the approval of the people, move the public to vote for the opposition and is acceptable to party loyalists.
Other DUP officials, however, remain skeptical over Moon’s abandoning his ticket for the upcoming presidential race as this will greatly undermine the legitimacy of the party.
They point out that options being reviewed include the type of merger reached in 1997 between late President Kim Dae-jung and former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil. Kim Jong-pil served as the No. 2 man in the Kim administration for his support of the democracy movement leader.
Another option reportedly being examined is the creation of a “joint citizens administration” made up of representatives from all factions of society that could result in Moon and Ahn sharing power.
In addition, if no agreement is reached through negotiations, the DUP and Ahn could adhere to the 2002 method of conducting a race with the winner running for president and the loser playing the supporting role.
This option is favored by progressives such as Cho Kuk, a law professor at SNU, but Moon will find it difficult to accept such a proposal as this will require amending party regulations and convincing the party leadership of the possible handover of the presidential ticket to Ahn.
As for the timing, Rep. Woo Yoon-keun, co-head of the DUP’s presidential election camp, said Moon and Ahn must come up with a way to form a unified front by October.
“A further delay in the merger will leave no room for a unified candidate to properly compete against the ruling party’s candidate over policies,” the three-term lawmaker said.