Posted May. 20, 2009 03:05,
The ruling Grand National Party will elect its floor leader and chief policymaker Thursday, but disarray has ensued since who will win the race remains unknown.
Moderate Hwang Woo-yea declared his candidacy by teaming up with Choi Kyung-hwan, a loyalist to former party Chairwoman Park Geun-hye, at the last moment. This has fueled speculation that someone is pulling the strings from behind.
Certain experts predict a neck-and-neck race with both pro-Lee Myung-bak and pro-Park groups refusing to lay their cards on the table.
Also running are Ahn Sang-soo and running mate Kim Seong-jo and the team of Chung Eui-hwa and Lee Jong-koo. Initially, a two-way race between Ahn and Chung was expected.
Choi and Hwang, however, have changed the landscape of the race, with speculation swirling that the party leadership and President Lees elder brother Lee Sang-deuk support the two candidates.
In addition, 60 lawmakers loyal to former party chief Park are expected to vote for Choi and Hwang.
Ahn has blasted Lee Sang-deuk as an invisible hand intervening in the election amid changes in the alignment of party factions. Those close to former lawmaker Lee Jae-oh are reportedly uniting.
A key party official said, Things looked hopeful for Choi and Hwang as party leaders and Lee Sang-deuk were rumored to support the two. But their support for Choi and Hwang prompted Lee Jae-oh loyalists to rally around Ahn.
Party supreme council member Gong Sung-jin, who is aligned with Lee Jae-oh, said yesterday, The new floor leader should take responsibility and have affection for the Lee Myung-bak administration.
Many in the party say the pro-Lee faction has divided their support for Ahn, Chung and Hwang.
The pro-Park group seems to support Choi and Hwang. As with the pro-Lee group, however, all pro-Park lawmakers are unlikely to vote for the two.
Though Park implicitly approved Chois candidacy, it is unclear if Park loyalists will unite and support Choi because Park has yet to express her official support.
One lawmaker close to Park said, Thirty to 40 lawmakers are likely to vote for Cho.
Party insiders predict that 20-30 swing lawmakers who have yet to decide will determine the election result.
Others speculate that the pro-Lee group will divide into small factions with the election as the starting point. Pro-Lee lawmakers joined the election camp for Hwang and only 17 lawmakers attended an emergency meeting of the 98-member National Unity Forum led by Ahn, showing party members are realigning themselves.
To Tomorrow Together, a pro-Lee group, is reported not to declare its support for pro-Lee candidates.
Though Ahn began keeping a low-profile yesterday after blasting President Lees brother, the rift between Ahn and Lee will likely rise again depending on the election result. In the process, the pro-Lee group will hold meetings on partings and calls for a party revamp will rise before and after by-elections in October.
One lawmaker serving consecutive terms in a Seoul constituency said, The election of a new floor leader should be an opportunity to reform the party in line with party renewal efforts. Adverse effects are also expected, however, with the election turning into a proxy war for each faction.
The election will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the National Assembly. If a candidate fails to receive a majority of the votes, a second ballot will be held between the top two vote getters.