South Korean parties face divisions ahead of elections
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South Korean parties face divisions ahead of elections

Both of South Korea’s major political parties are facing internal divisions ahead of the April National Assembly elections, which could add further unpredictability to the race.

The majority conservative New Frontier Party is facing a major split after its nominating committee excluded roughly 30 sitting legislators from primary elections to be held later this month.  The exclusion is part of inter-m chairwoman Park Geun-hye’s attempt to revitalize the party’s sagging support.  Supporters of President Lee Myung-bak claim that they are taking a disproportionate hit in the process.  There is a danger that the struggle could lead to excluded candidates banding together in a short-term political alliance much like Park’s supporters did with some success in the 2008 legislative elections, although Lee’s low popularity and the different political terrain in 2012 would make that more difficult.

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Democratic Unity Party candidate hopfuls protest in front of party headquarters demanding a fair nomination process ahead of the April 11, 2012 elections. Korea Times/Koh Young-kwon photo

In the meantime, the main opposition Democratic Unity Party continues to struggle with its own nomination process.  Several lawmakers who were denied a spot on the ballot have pledged that they will run as independents, a strategy that was successfully used by former Democratic presidential candidate Chung Dong-young after he was denied a ballot spot in a special election in 2009.  The division could complicate already difficult negotiations between the DUP and other progressive parties on forming an electoral alliance for the legislative elections.

To make matters even more interesting, the latest Realmeter poll has the NFP and the DUP tied at 36.3 percent as the DUP continues to lose support among continuing signs of political ineptitude.

In other news, Seoul’s Jongno district, considered to be Korea’s political prime real estate due to its location near the presidential mansion and the former royal palace, will once again feature a battle of political heavyweights.  The NFP’s Hong Sa-duk, former vice speaker of the National Assembly will face former chair of the DUP’s predecessor and possible presidential candidate Chung Sye-kyun.