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By-election Results to Transform Political Landscape

Posted May. 02, 2009 18:32,   


The results of parliamentary by-elections slated for today will not only reflect public sentiment on the Lee Myung-bak administration, but also affect both the ruling and opposition parties and the domestic political scene overall.

○ Bupyeong district to play critical role

The Bupyeong district of Incheon is expected to be the most hotly contested by-election since it is the first election in the Seoul metropolitan area since President Lee took office a year ago.

Experts say the result of this by-election will be a public evaluation of President Lee and the ruling Grand National Party. It will also likely to affect local elections set for next year.

Accordingly, the consequences of failure for the parties that fail to win here today will be substantial.

Leaders of both the ruling and opposition parties have been stumping in the district daily. Those from the ruling party have highlighted their parliamentary majority and promised to revitalize the struggling GM Daewoo Auto and Technology based in the region.

The main opposition Democratic Party, however, said the by-election is an opportunity to judge the Lee administration.

The winner in Bupyeong will determine the fates of both party leaders. Ruling party members say their leaders should step down in the event of a loss in Bupyeong.

Ruling party chairman Park Hee-tae rejected calls to run in the by-election, saying, “I will dedicate myself to revitalizing the economy.”

Democratic Party leader Chung Sye-kyun faces more urgent circumstances, however. He can avoid criticism only if his party wins this by-election since he declined to nominate former Unification Minister Chung Dong-young.

Chung Sye-kyun has visited Bupyeong every day to campaign there.

○ By-elections in Gyeongju and Wansan

By-elections in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, and the Wansan district of Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, could gauge voter opinions on intra-party politics. In Deokjin, a ruling party candidate close to President Lee and another ruling party candidate backing former party chief Park Geun-hye will face off.

In Jeonju’s Deokjin district, Chung Dong-young will run as an independent against a candidate from the party Chung bolted from, the Democratic Party.

If the ruling party’s Jeong Jong-bok, who is close to President Lee’s older brother Lee Sang-deuk, loses in Gyeongju, Lee Sang-deuk’s political influence will weaken.

Jeong’s loss will also boost the popularity of Park Geun-hye, who has not commented on the by-election.

Accordingly, the result in Gyeongju will significantly affect the power structure of the ruling party.

If Chung Dong-young wins in Deokjin and Shin Kuhn, who formed the Independent Candidates’ Alliance along with Chung, also wins in Wansan, Chung will achieve a big victory.

A Chung win will also boost the standing of Democratic Party members who remain loyal to him.

If Chung wins but Shin loses, however, Chung will join the National Assembly but face difficulty returning to the Democratic Party.

○ New Progressive Party

A district of the southern city of Ulsan will determine if the New Progressive Party can produce a National Assembly member. The party was formed by members who bolted from the progressive Democratic Labor Party, but has no member in parliament since co-chairmen Roh Hoi-chang and Shim Sang-jeong lost in the general elections last year.

The New Progressive Party’s prospects in Ulsan are rising given that the labor party has shown signs of an intra-party rift since the two progressive parties fielded a unified candidate.

In Ulsan, many say the organization of the labor party has failed to work at all.

Labor party officers are torn between backing New Progressive Party candidate Cho Seung-soo, who stood at the center of the controversy over the policy of engaging North Korea when he bolted from the labor party.