Ruling party to stick to current presidential primary process

Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party will stick to its current presidential candidate selection process, but will check to see if there are shortcomings that can be addressed, the party’s chairman said Saturday.

At the end of a workshop event for lawmakers, Hwang Woo-yea said meeting the primary election timetable set by the party’s constitution will be a challenge in itself. He said that because there is little time to waste, the selection process will move forward on schedule, with discussions aimed at making changes taking place on a parallel track.

“If we ignore established rules, and hold off the primary election for a month, and make no headway, then the party can face serious repercussions,” he claimed.

The former judge-turned-lawmaker added that the party should stand united so the presidential candidate selection process can move forward smoothly.

He said that a committee to oversee the party’s presidential candidate selection should be set up as soon as possible to receive formal applications from candidates.

Hwang said he plans to hold talks with party members who have called for a full, open primary to convince them to apply for the primary.

The comments effectively mean the ruling party will not set up a primary preparatory committee to discuss rule changes before launching a full-fledged election committee, as some potential primary candidates have demanded.

Lawmakers such as Chung Mong-joon and Lee Jae-oh and Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim Moon-soo, have called for an open primary, and hinted they may boycott the primary race en masse to protest what they say is bias in the selection process.

They claimed that under the present system set up in 2007, former party leader Park Geun-hye will be picked as the presidential candidate for the Dec. 19 race. Park and her supporters who control the ruling party have opposed any changes in the selection rules because it will cost money, require hard campaigning and squabbling that can lead to the weakening of the party’s support base, and run the risk of “reverse selection” by voters who support the opposition.

Reverse selection concerns have been raised because opposition supporters may take part in Saenuri’s open primary and vote for the least competitive candidate ahead of the presidential race. They have also said that because Park is way ahead of other hopefuls, changes in the rules are meaningless.

Reflecting this view, the Saenuri chief pointed out that discussions on an open primary require cooperation with the opposition party, and judging by past efforts, he did not think there was time to make the changes.

He, however, said that Saenuri will be open to taking input to improve the current selection process.

Meanwhile, first term Saenuri lawmakers present at the workshop in Cheonan, 92 kilometers south of Seoul, announced reform measures that aim to give up prerogatives enjoyed by lawmakers.

Privileges that could be cut include immunity from arrest while parliament is in session, excessive pension rights and the ability to hold a second job. The measure also push for strict adherence to the no-work no-pay principle, strengthening of ethics reviews for parliamentarians, and enhancing penalties for violence in the National Assembly.

They also called for legislative process to start on all parliamentary election campaign pledges within 100 days of the start of the new parliament.

Sources said while no concrete understanding was reached, the party will carefully examine reforms being called for so the Saenuri party can meet the expectations of the public. <Korea Times>

news@theasian.asia

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