Voting begins to elect new South Korean ruling party leader

Seoul, Mar 4 (EFE).- The ruling People’s Power Party of South Korea began the voting process Saturday to choose the new leader of the party for parliamentary elections next year.

Kim Gi-hyeon, a favorite of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, leads the polls with 45 percent support, followed by former presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo (23 percent), lawyer Chun Ha-ram (12 percent) and former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (10 percent), according to the most recent polls, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Some 840,000 party members, the highest number to date for a conservative party in the country, are expected to vote online over the next four days.

The new leader of the PPP will be announced during a national convention scheduled for Wednesday, although in the event that there is no winner in the first round and a second round must be held, it will be announced on March 12, the outlet said.

These internal elections are of special importance for the party, since the new leader of the PPP will have the task ahead of leading the party to win control of the National Assembly, the South Korean parliament, in 2024, where the opposition Democratic Party (PD) has a large majority.

The presidential office is also closely watching developments in the domestic electoral process as it hopes a candidate loyal to Yoon will emerge victorious to help push his parliamentary agenda through to the end of his term in 2027.

Kim, who leads the polls in terms of voting intentions, has highlighted his ease in communicating with the presidential office and “empathizing” with the country’s president, saying that under his leadership he will make the PPP “unite firmly”

“I will reap a landslide victory in next year’s (parliamentary) general elections,” the candidate said during a campaign speech Thursday.

Ahn, for his part, has sown doubts about Kim’s suitability to lead the formation, given the accusations about an alleged use of his influence in the concessions of a railway project. Kim has denied the accusations and asked police to investigate the origin of it.

Chun, considered an ally of defeated party chief Lee Jun-seok (who resigned in the middle of last year in the midst of a power struggle within the party), has branded himself a candidate for party renewal, while Hwang has appealed to traditional conservative supporters.

This will be the first time the ruling party chooses its leader only through the vote of party members, without adding the results of public polls. EFE


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