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Party to Weed Out Older Candidates for Elections

Posted February. 11, 2008 03:08,   


The conservative Grand National Party’s committee for screening general election candidates has announced a new plan to recruit competent figures from outside the party. Thus interest is growing over which incumbent lawmakers will have to go and the scope of the planned revamp of the party’s lawmakers.

Members of the party and the committee said yesterday that the plan is intended to replace three- and four-time lawmakers, legislators in their 70s, and those from the southeastern region. Certain lawmakers who are considered morally suspect will also face replacement.

A party source said on condition of anonymity, “Committee members agreed that more than 36 percent of incumbent lawmakers should be replaced, similar to the level in the 2004 elections. The replacement of experienced lawmakers from southeastern provinces also seems inevitable.”

▽ Three-time lawmakers

The National Assembly has 25 three-time lawmakers, the same number as those who have served two terms. Except for two who said they will not seek reelection this year, 23 three-timers will run. In contrast, only three four-time lawmakers -- Kim Hyung-oh, Lee Q-taek, and Lee Kang-doo –- have applied.

Since so many three-time lawmakers will run this year, a large number of them are expected to be sorted out during the party’s screening process.

A party member said, “There are no posts available for four-time lawmakers. There are only about ten seats in the standing committee and most of them will go to three-time lawmakers. As several three-time lawmakers are not relatively competitive in their districts, around ten of them are expected not to be nominated.”

Twelve three-time lawmakers will run in Busan (four), Daegu (four) and North Gyeongsang Province (four). At least a third of them will likely fail to get nominations from their party.

▽ Lawmakers from the southeastern region

Almost the half of the National Assembly, or 63 lawmakers, is from the southeastern region: 17 from Busan, 12 from Daegu, 14 from North Gyeongsang Province and 15 from South Gyeongsang Province. The area’s candidate replacement ratio in the 2004 general elections was 42.8 percent.

A standing committee member said, “This is my personal opinion but the replacement ratio for lawmakers from the southeastern region should be at least 50 percent. Then the Grand National Party will be regarded as a party that reflects on itself, reforms itself and serves the people. Other committee members think no different from me.”

In other words, replacing 45 percent of the lawmakers in the southeastern region and 35 percent in the rest of the country will produce an overall replacement rate of 40 percent.

Certain lawmakers are rumored to face replacement due to poor management and bad reputations in their constituencies.

▽ Lawmakers in their 70s

The idea of replacing lawmakers in their 70s has been stifled by five-time lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk, 73, the older brother of President-elect Lee Myung-bak. The lawmaker’s decision to run this year is being hotly contested, as he is the eldest member of the party.

Other 70-something lawmakers include Lee Kang-doo (71, four terms); Park Jong-geun (73, three); Lee Jae-chang (71, three); Park Hee-tae (70, five); Kim Gi-chun (69, three); and Lee Sang-bae (69, three). Three-time lawmaker Kim Yong-gab (72) has dropped out of this year’s race. Except for Lee Jae-chang, all of them are from southeastern provinces and half of them support former party chairwoman Park Geun-hye.

A pro-Park Geun-hye member said, “It will not be easy to take issue with age, but if older lawmakers have problems working for their districts, it is only natural to replace them with younger members whether they are pro-Park or not.”

A two-time lawmaker from the Seoul metropolitan area said, “Haven’t we seen the problems of the 17th National Assembly, which has had only young and inexperienced lawmakers?”