Parties shift to presidential poll

By Kim Hyo-jin
Moon Jae-in, former leader of the main opposition Democracy Party of Korea

After the historic impeachment ruling on President Park Geun-hye, political parties are now shifting their focus to the early presidential election.

The poll is likely to take place on May 9, given the Constitution requires a new president within 60 days of the impeachment of the incumbent.

An early election will be the first in the country’s modern history. It has held the previous elections in December, about two months before the presidential term ends.

With the Constitutional Court’s ruling taking effect immediately, acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn has to announce the poll date 50 days before the election, according to the Public Election Law.

Hwang’s announcement should be made by March 20, which will make any date between April 29 and May 9 available.

An Hee-jung, South Chungcheong Province governor

Many predict the day will be May 9, considering most of the remaining days are holidays or weekends.

If that is the case, parties should complete their primaries by March 26 and presidential hopefuls should register their candidacy between April 15 and 16.

The electoral register will be finalized by April 27 and early voting will likely be held from May 4 to 5.

A Gallup poll showed Friday that Moon Jae-in, former leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), has cemented his lead with support of 32 percent in the second week of March.

Moon was followed by the same party’s An Hee-jung, the South Chungcheong Province governor; former People’s Party leader Ahn Cheol-soo; and the DPK’s Lee Jae-myung, the Seongnam mayor, who garnered 17, 9, and 8 percent respectively.

Ahn Cheol-soo, former leader of the minor opposition People’s Party

Hwang, viewed as a possible conservative candidate, was third with the same support as Ahn.

Moon has the highest chance of being the candidate of the main opposition party, political commentators say. The poll showed 61 percent of DPK supporters favor Moon while 15 percent favor An and 12 percent support Lee.

Moon is leading the poll with 45 percent support in Jeolla Provinces, the liberal party’s home turf and the first primary region of the DPK. Many view that a primary victory there could prompt a chain reaction in the remaining primary districts due to the widespread diaspora of the Jeolla people over the country.

While Hwang is remaining silent on joining the race, ex-South Gyeongsang Governor Hong Joon-pyo is emerging as a potential candidate who may draw the conservative support.

Lee Jae-myung, Seongnam mayor

Hong of the Liberty Korea Party, the former ruling party, garnered 3.3 percent of the support rate this week, ahead of Yoo Seong-min of the minor conservative Bareun Party.

Politics professor at Yongin University Choi Chang-ryul predicted the court’s impeachment ruling would further strengthen the opposition-winning atmosphere in the presidential race.

“The impeachment of Park means that her having made mistakes is confirmed not just morally but also legally,” he said. “It will further propel centrist voters who have been sickened by the current conservative government to tilt more toward the opposition side.”

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