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Factionalism over Nomination Concerns Pres. Lee

Posted March. 08, 2008 04:26,   


President Lee Myung-bak expressed his strong concern about the situation in which the nomination of the Grand National Party (GNP) candidates for the upcoming April 9 general elections has recently been viewed to have been made in consideration of faction affiliation, according to sources on Friday.

Meanwhile, former GNP Chairwoman Park Geun-hye criticized the party’s decision to reject the nomination of some lawmakers close to her, saying they are the victims of “target nomination.” Park is now contemplating her next move.

A great deal of attention is now being paid to the decisions of the two most influential GNP figures — President Lee and former Chairwoman Park.

▽ President Warns of Factionalism

In a recent telephone conversation with the GNP nomination screening committee, President Lee reportedly expressed his concern over the public’s negative view on the GNP nomination and urged the committee not to nominate candidates in consideration of their factional affiliation. In addition, Lee also expressed his opinion on the nomination of candidates for strategic areas, such as southern Seoul.

“The president is firm on his belief that (the GNP) can secure more than a half of the (parliamentary) seats with reformed nomination,” said a source close to the president. “He strongly believes that the party can achieve the goal when it overcomes factionalism and nominates many competitive figures, instead of pushing for a unconditional personnel shake-up.”

“Former President Roh Tae-woo earned his nickname ‘Water Tae-woo’ because the then ruling party failed to secure the majority of parliamentary seats in the general elections in April 1988, only two months after his inauguration,” said an official of the GNP. “President Lee must be worried about it.”

President Lee called in Rep. Chung Doo-un, one of his confidants, to Cheong Wa Dae on Tuesday and asked him to play the role of “the messenger of the general elections.” Political experts say that this was a gesture displaying Lee’s determination to win the general elections.

▽ Park Cornered with Fewer Choices

Park cancelled all her plans scheduled on Friday and stayed in her house in Samseong-dong, Seoul, without making outside contacts. However, in the afternoon, she briefly met with Rep. Lee Q-taek, who lost the GNP ticket to run the general elections, on Thursday, to console him.

Close aides to Park speculate a variety of possible moves by the former GNP chairwoman, including bolting from the party.

“It is true that the situation is not ideal for her. But Park may make a surprising decision since she is a person who makes decisions regardless of what benefits or losses it may bring to her,” said a key aide to Park, hinting the possibility of her withdrawal from the GNP.

On the other hand, another Park’s aide said, “Trust between President Lee and Park has not been changed. Although she is upset about the fact that those she cares were not nominated, the chance of her defection from the party is almost zero.”

However, even if Park decides to leave the party, it will be difficult for her to gain political justification and power necessary to create a new party and induce a mass defection considering that the general elections are only one month away and there are conflicts of interest between those nominated and not nominated.

For that reason, some political analysts believe that Park’s resistance is a strategy aimed at adding pressure as much as possible on the nomination of candidates for the Yeongnam region (Gyeongsang provinces). Thus, both the GNP and Park will likely have the toughest time around early next week, when nomination results for the Yeongnam region are announced.

ditto@donga.com jkmas@donga.com