UPDATE : 2018.4.20 FRI 16:41
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Support for Ahn's new party nearly doubles that of Democratic Party

Again single candidacy of opposition camp is a deciding factor

Support for Ahn's new party nearly
doubles that of Democratic Party

▲Generously minded Ahn Cheol-soo (left) conceded his mayoral candidacy for the Seoul Special City to the then Seoul Mayoral Candidate Park Won-sun in October 2011. Ahn had the 55% popularity rating in most opinion polls when Park had only a 5% support. Ahn got the attention of the general public for his exceptional generosity.

Reports say that finally Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo (Independent) is expected to form a political party of his own on or about Nov. 24, 2013. The Ahn party is going to cause a great change in the political arena in Korea because he has many followers, especially the middle-of-the-roaders. Reports indicate that there are some reform-minded and centrist-oriented lawmakers in both the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) who might join the new left-of-the-center party of Ahn.

▲Left and right photos show the then independent Presidential hopeful, Ahn Cheol-soo, reluctantly and sadly conceding his candidacy to Moon Jae-in shortly before the Presidential election last December. Moon lost the election to the then Saenuri Party Presidential Candidate Park Geun-hye.
The most recent opinion surveys on the political parties in Korea indicate that the Ahn party by far outstrips the DP. A typical example is one conducted by Mono Research and published by Korean-language Financial Today on Nov. 20, 2013 on the current popularity of the political parties.

In this survey, 47.3% of the respondents supported Saenuri followed not by the DP but by the Ahn party (yet to be formed) with 23.5%. The DP got only 13.7% followed by the controversial Unified Progressive Party (UPP) with 2.8% and the Justice Party (modest progressives) with 1.8%. Some 8.8% said they had no political party they supported. Financial Today consulted a total of 1,372 men and women in the survey.

An analyst said that the support rating for Ahn party could exceed 30% if Ahn makes sure that his party will actually come into being.

The surveyors then asked the supporters of the different political parties if they wanted to shift their support from the party they supported to the Ahn party. From Saenuri 6.6% said they would shift their support to Ahn while 86.4% said they will continue loving Saenuri.
In contrast, from the DP 29.5% said they will shift their support for the Ahn Party while 49.9% said they will continue to support the DP.

Why is Ahn expediting the inauguration of his party at this time? Political observers say that his plans are targeted at the gubernatorial and mayoral elections slated for June 4, 2014, the parliamentary general elections on April 13, 2016 and eventually for a showdown in the next Presidential election on Dec. 20, 2017.

In the last Presidential election in December last year, Ahn wanted to join the contest with the then Saenuri Presidential Candidate Madam Park Geun-hye as Ahn prevailed almost in all opinion polls on the Presidential hopefuls of both the ruling and opposition camps. However, the opposition camp needed a single candidate to compete with the ruling camp candidate in order to prevent the split of the supporting votes for the opposition.

▲When the then independent Presidential hopeful, Ahn Cheol- soo gave an open lecture, the main conference halls of the universities were filled to the brim and the students and young people even filled the corridors and whatever space was available to hear what Ahn had to say on the current political situation in Korea as well as on socio-economic problems.

The situation made it necessary to choose one from between Ahn and the then Presidential hopeful, Moon Jae-in, of the Democratic Party. In all surveys, Ahn prevailed upon Moon as the single candidate of the opposition camp, however, Moon insisted on Ahn’s withdrawal with the support of the pro-Roh Moo-hyun (former President) faction in the DP.

The three-party contest in most opinion polls had Ahn winning over the ruling party candidate who, in turn, prevailed on Moon. In other words, Moon always came out a loser in the competition among the three Presidential hopefuls. However, Moon would not give up.

Ahn is noted for making concessions to his competitors. Earlier on Oct. 26, 2011, Ahn conceded his candidacy to Park Won-soon for the mayorship of the Seoul Special City (capital of the Republic of Korea) in spite of the fact that Ahn had the 55% support in most opinion polls vis-a-vis only 5% collected by Park Won-soon. Ahn raised the hand of Park asking the Seoul voters to support Park. Park Won-soon won the Seoul mayorship mainly thanks to the concession made by Ahn.

Park, however, joined the DP later.

▲Rep. Ahn Cheol- soo (left) with Rep. Song Ho-chang who is a close associate of Ahn. Frequently, Rep. Song is considered the spokesman of Ahn and expected play a prominent role in the formation of the new party to be organized by Ahn to compete in all future elections as well as the imminent gubernatorial and mayor elections, including one for Seoul City, slated for next June.

Now Ahn, as the leader of the new party, is in a dilemma over his party’s candidate for the Seoul mayoral election next June. Ahn has to make a decision whether or not to nominate his own party’s candidate for the Seoul mayor election because the candidate will have to compete with Park Won-soon whom Ahn had supported in the last election.

Park Won-soon has gained a good measure of popularity while as a Seoul mayor and now his popularity standing ranges around 50%. If Ahn wants to nominate his own candidate for the Seoul mayor to compete with Mayor Park, he would have to find someone who is powerful enough to defeat Park who now has the support of the major opposition DP which will eventually be Ahn’s competitor in all future elections.

In this case, Ahn may again have to give up his party’s nomination of a candidate for the Seoul mayorship in favor of Park Won-soon as the latter wants to run again for re-election as Seoul mayor.

However, this is something Ahn should think over hard because the Seoul mayor has a formidable influence on the voters of the Republic of Korea for the next National Assembly and Presidential elections because Seoul has more than one quarter of the total population of the Republic of Korea.

There are a number of members of the National Assembly who are strong supporters of Ahn, who include Rep. Song Ho-chang.

▲This book, Ahn Cheol-soo’s Thinking, contains details on the socio-political and economic idea of Ahn. The books is very popular among the young and learned people in Korea, especially the university students.

Song recently was quoted by Korean-language media as saying, “I hope that Mr. Park will run as the candidate of the new party of Rep. Ahn.” However, when reporters asked Ahn to comment on this, Ahn merely said, “Well, I would say that it is the personal opinion of Mr. Song.”

According to a survey conducted by the Mono Research on Nov. 20, 2013 when the surveyors asked the pollees how much influence the candidates of the Ahn party would have on the gubernatorial and mayoral elections next June, 42.7% replied that they would have a certain measure of influence, 16% said that they would have a great measure of influence, and 33.7% said that they will have no influence at all.

The pollees then were asked, “If the opposition camp achieves a single candidacy at the local elections next June, would you support the opposition candidates?” Of the respondents, 31.3% said yes and 32.8% said that they will decide after observing the situation, while 33.6% said no.

▲Ahn (left) with Moon. Ahn prevailed upon Moon in most opinion polls over who should be the single opposition candidate for the President election last December. However, Ahn reluctantly conceded it to Moon with the result that Moon lost it to the then Saenuri Presidential Candidate Park Geun-hye.

All told, once again the deciding factor for the Ahn party in the local elections next June, the National Assembly general elections in April 2016 and the Presidential race in December 2017, will be the success (or the lack of it) in achieving a single candidacy with the main opposition DP and the splinter opposition parties such as UPP and the JP.

However, Ahn will have a better chance of winning in the elections if the ruling Saenuri and opposition DP continue to fight with each other over various political issues which give the Ahn party a good reason to brand them as ‘old-time politicians’ engaged in politicking which should be done away with to meet the requirements of the new age. Young people in the 20s to 40s, especially the students, are sick and tired of the ‘old politicking’ and seek something new. They mostly form the supporters of Ahn.

▲Ahn speaks at a TV Talk Show, which drastically boosted his popularity in the general public.

In fact, opinion polls indicate that the more seriously Saenuri and DP fight with each other the larger the benefit is for the Ahn party. The ongoing issues over the secret talks between Presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il, Internet postings against the ND candidate in the last Presidential election and many more, favorably affect the Ahn party. k

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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