Ahn Cheol-soo lead primaries; Democrats’ first result due Monday

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With 44 days left to the May 9 presidential election, political parties are jockeying to finalize their presidential candidate. In the centrist People’s Party’s race, Ahn Cheol-soo is leading.

Although it is too early to judge the final outcome, Yoo Seong-min appears increasingly likely to be chosen as the single candidate of the conservative Bareun Party.

Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party (Yonhap)

The liberal Democratic Party of Korea, home to the two most powerful contenders, Moon Jae-in and An Hee-jung, is to report the outcome of its first regional primary Monday.

Ahn scored a landslide victory over the two other presidential hopefuls — Sohn Hak-kyu and Park Joo-sun — in the People’s Party’s Gwangju-South Jeolla-Jeju region primary on Saturday.

Ahn gained 60.6 percent of the votes among the three, while some had predicted that his share of the vote would be below 50 percent. Apart from his success relative to his opponents, the high turnout in the region, a liberal stronghold, suggests he may have an edge with left-leaning voters if he becomes the party’s candidate.

Despite the rainy weather, the number of participants who voted for the three was 62,441, far exceeding the 20,000 expected. On Sunday, the People’ Party continued to draw high public interest in the North Jeolla Province primary with about 30,357 people voting as of 6 p.m. It is allowing ordinary citizens to vote in addition to party-registered supporters.

The higher-than-expected voter turnout suggests that the Honam region’s support for the People’s Party is still strong. In the 2016 general election, the minor opposition People’s Party beat the main opposition Democratic Party in South and North Jeolla provinces, the traditional home turf of the latter.

There are also spreading projections, which foresee Ahn emerging as a powerful presidential contender, even though his support rating of slightly over 10 percent lags behind the two leading candidates of the Democratic Party.

As for the conservative Bareun Party, Yoo Seong-min is securing a steady lead over runner-up Nam Kyung-pil after winning the primaries in four regions. However, Yoo’s overall support rating in the polls is below 3 percent.

Rather than Yoo, Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party has come into the spotlight among conservative hopefuls with a nationwide support rating of about 8 percent.

Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea (Yonhap)

The first round primary of the Democratic Party in which three aspirants — Moon Jae-in, An Hee-jung and Lee Jae-myung — are competing started Saturday.

The party will announce the three-day voting result in the Honam region on Monday.

Political watchers are waiting to see whether leading contender Moon would grab a majority in the region, which includes Gwangju. He has said that he will not run for the presidency if Honam voters do not support him.

Uncertainty has grown over Moon’s support rating in the wake of his recent remarks that he received an award during his drafted duties in the military by then-army general Chun Doo-hwan, who later become president through a military coup. His remarks could be heard to some citizens as boasting. In addition, allegations have been raised that a company gave irregular favors in employment to Moon’s son.

Moon’s support rating hovers at around 33 percent. This figure, however, is a retreat from the previous poll result, which saw him with nearly a 40 percent support rating when citizens’ fury at the Park Geun-hye scandal peaked in Gwanghwamun Square last winter.

Political analysts pick voter sentiment in Jeolla provinces as one of the two major barometers — along with that in the Seoul-Gyeonggi — to single out the liberal candidate.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)

Source : The Korea Herald

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