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Campaigns Heat Up Ahead of Wed. By-elections

Posted April. 28, 2009 04:08,   


Parliamentary by-elections are scheduled for tomorrow but the races for four of the five seats up for grabs remain highly contentious and unpredictable.

The minor New Progressive Party and the progressive Democratic Labor Party will field a unified candidate in Ulsan’s Buk district, and former President Roh Moo-hyun will undergo questioning by prosecutors Thursday. These two developments could affect the results of the vote.

For the ruling Grand National Party, a member of the pro-President Lee Myung-bak faction will face off against an independent who backs former party chief Park Geun-hye in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.

The main opposition Democratic Party will field its leadership candidates against non-mainstream candidates in the Deokjin district and Wansan A district in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province.

Hence, the results of the vote could spawn a major backlash, including the mass resignation of party leaders and internal feuds in both parties.

The leaders of the two main parties staged last-ditch campaigns yesterday two days ahead of the by-elections.

The ruling party stepped up its offensive against its opponents, saying, “The unified fielding of a candidate by the Democratic Labor Party and the New Progressive Party is political collusion.”

The Democratic Party’s leaders visited Incheon’s Bupyeong B district, where it urged voters to help “form a structure in which candidates from the Grand National Party and the main opposition party compete one-on-one to pressure the Lee administration.”

The minor conservative Liberty Forward Party staged a campaign in Gyeongju, while the Democratic Labor Party and the New Progressive Party focused on maximizing the effect of their unified candidate in Ulsan’s Buk district.

As parties engage in a do-or-die battle in the campaign, the extraordinary session of the National Assembly, which has four days left, has come to a virtual standstill. Parliament barely managed to convene meetings of the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts and several standing committees accomplished nothing except forming their quorums, let alone deliberate bills and tackle the supplementary budget.

The ruling and opposition parties have yet to narrow differences in reviewing the 28.9 trillion won (21 billion U.S. dollars) in supplementary budget, while the revision bill to the Irregular Workers’ Act has not yet been submitted to a parliamentary standing committee.