The main opposition People Power Party’s Yoon Suk-yeol and the minor opposition People Party Ahn Cheol-soo declared to merge their candidacies on Thursday. After two and a half hours’ talks until the early morning, they announced, “Our single candidacy is of the people, by the people, for the people,” adding that they agreed to forge their cooperative relationship to achieve change of government for a better country – a better change of government, specifically. Ahn endorsed Yoon and resigned from his presidential race. After the presidential election ends, the two opposition parties intend to merge.
The two candidates concluded a deal one day before early voting is performed for two days on Friday and Saturday and six days before the presidential election day. Any results of new polls since Thursday are not allowed to be announced publicly as per law. With such lack of visibility deepening around the upcoming presidential election, the issue of single candidacy, one of the biggest events, was resolved, which will only cause a series of seismic shifts in the election landscape. Lee and Ahn said that they have no doubt of a perfect regime change. By contrast, the ruling Minjoo Party of Korea’s Lee Jae-myung said, “It is not politicians but citizens who lead politics,” adding, “I trust history and voters.”
We may need to wait and see what impact this big deal will have on the election. Voters may change their mind according to how they view the single candidacy – for the sake of the two candidates’ interests and political engineering vs. solidarity based on values for the future of the nation. Nevertheless, it is doubtful how they reached agreement. They made a surprise agreement at the last minute following a long harsh battle over who is held responsible for a deal failed previously even until Wednesday. As Ahn had publicly promised to run his race to the finish line, saying that he reached a deadline in negotiations for single candidacy, his surprise resignation left voters dumbfounded.
As ballot paper for early voting will be prepared on the spot, “Resigned” can be marked clearly on the sheets to notify voters. However, ballots for the election day are already printed out so written announcements inform voters of Ahn’s withdrawal outside polling places. Their merger became the most belated decision made for any presidential election of the nation in history. Conventionally, single candidacy is one of the determining factors even right before election days. Now is the time to set up a systemized scheme to contain such confusion.
One of the most feasible solutions can be the two-round system by which the final presidential winner is determined in the second ballot if not any candidate earns a majority of votes. This voting mechanism may allow minor candidates to provide their policy vision and help the final winner forge a driving for governance without being embroiled in controversy over single candidacy or wasted votes. When every presidential election season comes around, talks of a runoff vote start but do not come to fruition following the election season. The ruling party already agreed to introduce the runoff voting system, which was supported by Ahn as well. The PPP should clearly determine the party’s direction.