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(News Focus) Desperate presidential hopefuls seek alliance, but with little hope

2017/03/28 13:38

SEOUL, March 28 (Yonhap) -- Amid an unrivaled lead by presidential front-runner Moon Jae-in in the wake of a massive corruption scandal involving former conservative President Park Geun-hye, those competing against the liberal contender for the presidency are mulling over joining forces, observers here noted Tuesday.

With hopes of taking the now-vacant top elected position becoming increasingly elusive, they have little choice but to maneuver for a power-sharing scheme, they added.

Talks of an electoral alliance gained traction as soon as the former president was removed from office on March 10 by the Constitutional Court. Her dismissal triggered a rare presidential by-election on May 9, and Moon from the liberal Democratic Party has already cemented the top position in all opinion polls on the upcoming election.

Presidential election front-runner Moon Jae-in (L) attends a primary election by his liberal Democratic Party in Gwangju, 329 kilometers southwest of Seoul, on March 27, 2017. The former party chief took a victory in the first round of the party primary with 60.2 percent of the vote, followed by South Chungcheong Province Gov. An Hee-jung (R) with 20 percent and Seongnam City Mayor Lee Jae-myung (C) with 19.8 percent. (Yonhap) Presidential election front-runner Moon Jae-in (L) attends a primary election by his liberal Democratic Party in Gwangju, 329 kilometers southwest of Seoul, on March 27, 2017. The former party chief took a victory in the first round of the party primary with 60.2 percent of the vote, followed by South Chungcheong Province Gov. An Hee-jung (R) with 20 percent and Seongnam City Mayor Lee Jae-myung (C) with 19.8 percent. (Yonhap)

In the latest survey released Monday, the former Democratic Party chief garnered an approval rating of 34.4 percent, far ahead of the runner-up from his own party, South Chungcheong Province Gov. An Hee-jung who got 17.1 percent.

Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, former chief of the left-leaning centrist People's Party, came next with 12.6 percent, followed by yet another liberal contender Seongnam City Mayor Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party with 10.2 percent.

Conservative contenders continued to languish far behind in the aftermath of the corruption scandal involving the conservative president.

South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo of the former ruling Liberty Korea Party gained 9.5 percent in the latest poll conducted by Realmeter. Rep. Kim Jin-tae, a loyalist to the ousted president from the same conservative party, came next with 5 percent.

The minor conservative Bareun Party apparently is the most eager to form an alliance with the approval rating of even its leading contender Rep. Yoo Seong-min remaining in the low 1 to 2 percent range.

Rep. Yoo Seong-min (R) of the conservative Bareun Party shakes hands with Park Jie-won, lawmaker and chief of the centrist People's Party, at a ceremony marking the inauguration of new leadership at the Buddhist Jogye Order in Seoul, South Korea on March 27, 2017. (Yonhap) Rep. Yoo Seong-min (R) of the conservative Bareun Party shakes hands with Park Jie-won, lawmaker and chief of the centrist People's Party, at a ceremony marking the inauguration of new leadership at the Buddhist Jogye Order in Seoul, South Korea on March 27, 2017. (Yonhap)

Yoo is said to be willing to forge an alliance with anyone from any political party, including the former ruling Liberty Korea Party, as long as the person or faction is not pro-Park.

Yoo, along with 32 other lawmakers, defected from the former ruling party while calling for a parliamentary impeachment of the former president. They later formed the Bareun Party.

The former ruling party remains divided over a possible coalition, as its four presidential hopefuls are currently locked in an in-house race for the party nomination.

Three contenders close to the former president are said to be considering an alliance against their leading rival Hong. They include former six-term lawmaker Rhee In-je and North Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kwan-yong.

Hong, maintaining his distance from Park and her followers, is proposing a grand alliance against presidential front-runner Moon.

"We have no choice but to form alliances and coalitions to go through the election as there is not even enough time to let people know," Hong said in a TV debate involving all three other contenders of his party.

"The right wing has no choice but to form an electoral alliance. Or else it will simply be offering the power to the left wing," he said, adding he was willing to form such an alliance even with the rather liberal People's Party if necessary.

Presidential hopefuls of the former ruling Liberty Korea Party are (from L) South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo, Rep. Kim Jin-tae, North Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kwan-yong and former lawmaker Rhee In-je. (Yonhap) Presidential hopefuls of the former ruling Liberty Korea Party are (from L) South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo, Rep. Kim Jin-tae, North Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kwan-yong and former lawmaker Rhee In-je. (Yonhap)

The problem for Hong, or any conservative, is that Ahn, the likely winner of the People's Party's ongoing primary, refuses to join forces even to win the election against front-runner Moon.

"I reject any alliance that will pardon those who had opposed the impeachment (of Park), or any artificial alliance only engineered to stand up against a certain candidate," he said earlier.

An official from the Democratic Party also argued that any alliance against the party or any of its presidential hopefuls will backfire.

"The high and growing popularity of the party clearly reflects the people's wish to realize a power change," the official said, while speaking on the condition of anonymity.

In a survey conducted by the Korea Society Opinion Institute last week, the Democratic Party saw its approval rating reach 48.5 percent from 40.8 percent two weeks earlier.

The former ruling party came in second with 10.4 percent, followed by the People's Party at 9.7 percent and the Bareun Party 3.8 percent.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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