LKP primary race crowded with minor hopefuls

Interior Minister Hong Yun-sik, third from left, and other government officials hold a ceremony for the opening of the government’s election management office at the Government Complex in Seoul, Wednesday. The office will oversee campaigns for the presidential election, scheduled for May 9, in collaboration with the National Election Commission. / Yonhap

By Jun Ji-hye

After acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn decided not to run in the presidential election, the primary race of the Liberty Korea Party (LKP) is crowded with minor contenders.

This will further reduce the chances for the party to win the May 9 presidential election as it reels from the corruption scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye and her removal from office last week.

So far, nine people from the former ruling party have announced their presidential ambitions, including former six-term lawmaker Rhee In-je and Kim Jin, a former editorial writer at the conservative JoongAng Ilbo.

Other contenders include Rep. Kim Jin-tae, a key loyalist to the unseated head of state, and North Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Kwan-yong.

In addition to them, South Gyeongsang Province Governor Hong Joon-pyo also plans to declare his candidacy later this week, while former Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim Moon-soo is also considering announcing a bid.

If the two decide to join the already crowded race, the number of contenders will increase to 11. This is the most compared to other political parties including the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) that currently has four contenders including Moon Jae-in.

In a survey released by local pollster R&Search, Wednesday, the LKP garnered a mere 11 percent support compared to the DPK’s 43.4 percent, meaning that there is little chance for its candidates to have any meaningful presence in the presidential competition.

Among 11 LKP hopefuls, only Governor Hong reached the top 10 in the survey, being ranked sixth with support of 3.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Hwang ranked fourth with 10.2 percent in the same survey, becoming the only conservative figure garnering more than 10 percent support ― this was why the LKP was hoping for his participation in the primary race.

The minor conservative Bareun Party floor leader Joo Ho-young ridiculed the LKP, saying, “As one person goes along with the crowd, others follow the crowd.”

Rep. Kim Sung-tae also said, “The LKP has become a place where odds and ends gather.”

The LKP originally planned to close candidate registration Wednesday, but following Hwang’s withdrawal from the race, it decided to extend the period by one day.

The party also said it decided to revise the controversial primary rules criticized for giving undue favors to popular figures like Hwang ― it decided to remove the exceptional rule allowing “prominent” contenders to skip the preliminary race that will take place before an election to select the party’s presidential candidate.

Minor contenders earlier protested this rule, claiming it leaves the door open for Hwang to take part in the primary belatedly.

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