Npad readies for chairman election, convention
The race for chairman of the largest opposition party kicked off this week as lawmakers from the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) began preparing the rules of the game.
The party will hold its convention on Feb. 8. A preparatory committee for the leadership election was launched on Monday.
While it remains to be seen who will register as a candidate, it is highly anticipated that Rep. Moon Jae-in, who was narrowly defeated by Park Geun-hye in the 2012 presidential election, will join the race.
The new chairman would oversee the country’s largest opposition party, with 130 lawmakers.
“We have time until the year’s end,” Moon told lawmakers on Monday in response to speculation about a possible chairmanship bid.
“After the preparatory committee decides the election rules, I will think more seriously about whether or not to run.”
Party officials, however, stated that it is an accepted fact that Moon will run for the NPAD chairmanship, citing an earlier interview he had with the JoongAng Ilbo.
Last week, Moon declared an end to politics centered on the NPAD’s old Roh Moo-hyun faction, which was criticized for hindering the party’s efforts to reform. Asked if his own politics will start with the party convention, Moon said, “You can count on it.”
Moon was the closest confidant to the late President Roh and a key leader of the group formed of Roh loyalists.
While party members largely expect him to be a key contender, the rules of the election have yet to be decided. Moon supports the current system, in which the party chairman is determined separately from the election for Supreme Council members.
Rep. Chung Sye-kyun, a senior politician who is expected to run for the chairmanship, also said he supports the current system.
In a recent radio interview, Chung said changing the rules every time there is a leadership election was indicative of a hidden agenda. “Doing the best within the existing framework is good politics,” he said.
Rep. Park Jie-won, a veteran opposition party member whose primary support bloc is older generation voters, said it was better for the NPAD to elect a chairman who did not have aspirations for the presidency.
“When a presidential candidate leads the party, he will be damaged before the election,” Park said. “For the party to win the presidential election, it is better to separate the two.”
While Park’s argument was supported by a few, it’s possible that the politicians who are not part of the Roh faction could create an alliance to deter Moon.
Some worry that if Moon wins the chairmanship, nominations for the 2016 legislative elections and the primary for the 2017 presidential election would largely be in the hands of the Roh faction.
The party selected 20 members for the committee who will oversee preparation for the party convention and determine the rules of the election. Among the 20, three are clearly Moon supporters.
Selecting regional chapter leaders, who have a large influence on party delegates, is also a thorny issue. The party announced the heads selected for 213 regional chapters out of 246.
While seated lawmakers largely maintained their posts as regional chapter leaders, Representative Kang Dong-won, formerly a member of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP), was not appointed this time to head the district chapter of Namwon and Sunchang in North Jeolla.
Instead, the post was awarded to former Rep. Lee Kang-rae, who was defeated by Kang in the constituency.
Kang complained bitterly about the decision, claiming the party had no intention to reform.
A special adviser to Moon was selected as the head of the Seoul’s Gwanak B chapter. Jeong Tae-ho, a former spokesman during the Roh administration, will oversee the district.