Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo won a landslide victory at the first primary of South Korea's minor centrist People's Party that kicked off on Saturday, gaining great leverage to become the party's presidential nominee.
Ahn, one of the party's founders, garnered 35,170 votes, or 60.1 percent, as of 8:30 p.m., routing former opposition leader Sohn Hak-kyu with 22.6 percent and Deputy National Assembly Speaker Park Joo-sun with 17.2 percent, according to the party..
More than 62,000 party men cast a ballot in the first primary, it added.
The primary was held in Gwangju, 329 kilometers southwest of Seoul, the nearby South Jeolla Province and the southern island of Jeju, with participation from all eligible voters regardless of their party affiliation. It was also held without pre-registration.
The Saturday primary is regarded as the most important round in the run up to the party convention as about 70,000 party members are from Gwangju and South Jeolla Province out the total 190,000.
Also, the two regions have long been the traditional stronghold of the nation's liberal camp.
The People's Party, which was founded by defectors from the liberal Democratic Party, also has about half of its members in the region.
On Sunday, a primary will be held in North Jeolla Province.
The People's Party is the third-largest party in the unicameral parliament.
It is set to nominate its standard-bearer on April 4 ahead of the presidential election on May 9. (Yonhap)