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Lee Hoi-chang May Tackle Presidency as Maverick

Posted November. 06, 2007 03:18,   


Former Grand National Party chairman Lee Hoi-chang, currently weighing his third presidency candidacy on a 4-day visit to the provinces, was reviewing his withdrawal from the party to run for presidency as an independent last night, and at the same time seeking solidarity with outer rim political actors and minor parties such as the People Front Party (PFP).

Lee: “Running as an Independent is the only course of action”-

Lee Heung-joo, de facto spokesman of former GNP president Lee, held a press conference yesterday at Lee’s Namdaemunro office and said, “It is realistically inconceivable to create a party (after a withdrawal from the GNP) or run as another party’s (PFP or other) candidate,” and added that, “Such courses of action do not sincerely reflect Mr. Lee’s true features, making it inevitable for him to go alone in the end.”

The Special Assistant to the former chairman remarked about People Front Party presidential candidate Shim Dae-pyeong’s comments about being able to meet Lee Hoi-chang on the premise of withdrawing from the candidacy, and left room for speculations, saying, “We should not look into subtraction politics that exclude, but rather into politics of addition that seek tolerance and cohesion. We could probably gain more support from the people by comprehensively uniting the people that share ideas with Mr. Lee Hoi-chang.”

He did not specify what other parties Lee’s side was considering unity with, other than the PFP and True Leader Union candidate Jeong Geun-mo, who both first sought unity with Lee. He merely hinted recruiting the dispersed ‘Lee Hoi-chang supporters,’ saying, “There were many good men who helped Mr. Lee during the 1997 and 2002 presidential elections. Why wouldn’t many of them gather around him again?”

However, Special Assistant Lee said the day before yesterday that, “If Mr. Lee Hoi-chang runs for the presidency, we may be joined by ‘fresh’ people.”

With this, he left open the possibility of a last minute unification deal with candidate Lee Myung-bak, leaving space open for negotiations.

Special Assistant Lee said, “The basic principle of Mr. Lee is to prevent spoiling (the victory of conservatism) by splitting the rightists,” and added, “If Mr. Lee returns to Seoul, there is no reason not to meet candidate Lee Myung-bak, though we do not know when.”

No separate campaign commitments, but the former ones will be updated –

With only 44 days left until the election, there are doubts over whether Mr. Lee will be able to muster minimum preparations, such as public commitments or electoral requirements. This is the other problem Mr. Lee faces with his run, along with the division of the conservative camp.

Special Assistant Lee answered questions from reporters on whether Mr. Lee’s camp was prepared to meet basic electoral system requirements, saying, “In order to run in a presidential election, we should have an effective system in place, but it is true we are not ready at all,” and added, “Mr. Lee did not think beforehand that he would be in such a situation.”

Although marred by various negative campaign facets, such as the BBK stock price manipulation scandal, the political arena is still a policy-oriented election. In such context, it is debated whether a long-departed man from the political scene can come up with a 2007 version of commitments.

Special Assistant Lee confirmed that, “Because Mr. Lee did not intend to run for the presidency, he has not prepared separate commitments,” but added that, “He has two good sets of presidential commitments in former elections, and he has a pool of outstanding men who can update or remodel them.”

Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Cheon Ho-seon remarked on yesterday’s regular briefing that, “It is not appropriate to remark on Mr. Lee, when he has not officially announced his run for the presidency yet,” but also said, “If he does announce it officially, Cheong Wa Dae will release its official position.” He added, “Although I cannot say this is exactly the President’s opinion, if Mr. Lee actually runs for the presidency, and if there is anything to comment about its relevancy to state affairs and the development of politics, then we will comment about it.”

Cheong Wa Dae has been known to be aware of Mr. Lee’s possible run for the presidency for quite a while.

ddr@donga.com kimhs@donga.com