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[Opinion] Rules of the Primary Race

Posted March. 12, 2007 07:18,   


Whether it is a competition or a game, the rules deciding the winner must be fair and straightforward. Otherwise, the loser may refuse to accept the verdict or one cannot expect anyone to play fair from the very beginning. Although the Grand National Party (GNP) is experiencing serious internal conflicts over the rules in selecting the primary winner, you cannot blame the process itself, as it is an attempt to find the fairest way to select a candidate. However, each of the presidential hopefuls is stubbornly insisting on a way that would be most advantageous to them. And it does not look good.

According to the existing primary system of the GNP, a total of 40,000 primary delegates cast ballots to determine the winner in June. The primary system, which had been proposed by the “innovation committee,” of the GNP, was confirmed after over 50 public hearings and discussions. Meanwhile, the Uri Party delayed the date for their primary as late as possible and introduced an open primary in an attempt to steal the spotlight. In response, GNP lawmakers started to raise questions over their primary system.

Lee Myung-bak, who has the highest approval ratings among presidential hopefuls, wants to increase the number of primary delegates while maintaining the existing timetable. Park Geun-hye also wants to maintain the current system in principle, but she believes that the timing and the number of primary delegates should be flexible to some degree. Meanwhile, Sohn Hak-kyu, who has been the underdog, is demanding the party postpone the primary as much as possible and increase the number of primary delegates as well. Although the GNP “primary preparation committee” has tried to iron out the presidential hopefuls’ differences, it failed to work out an agreement by March 10, which was the deadline set by the party. So the committee decided to submit two mediated plans—“by the end of July with 200,000 primary delegates” and “by September 9 with 190,000 primary delegates” —to the supreme council of the party.

Although the ball is now in the GNP leadership’s court, it does not look like an easy decision to make. There is even persistent speculation saying that Sohn may bolt from the party and that the GNP may face a major crisis in March. Although it may sound too ideal, I think each of the primary candidates should propose a way that would be “generous” to other candidates. And it would be much better if they propose a way that helps the GNP win in direct competition with other parties. Would it be too idealistic if I said that presidential hopefuls should respect others and learn how to compromise first, instead of stubbornly insisting on their demands?

Lee Jin-nyong, Editorial Writer, jinnyong@donga.com