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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 4)

All News 06:59 January 04, 2022

Ahn's growing popularity
Candidates should compete over policies

Minor opposition People's Party presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo is drawing attention after gaining a double-digit support rate in recent opinion polls. According to a survey by Embrain Public released Monday, Ahn secured a 10.1 percent support rate.

Without a doubt, Ahn is still waging an uphill battle with his popularity falling far behind the two leading candidates ― Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP). Lee and Yoon garnered a 39.4 percent and 29.9 percent support rating, respectively. Yet, Ahn's leap is noticeable because his support rate previously lingered at around 5 percent, overshadowed by the two frontrunners since he declared his presidential bid on Nov. 1.

Another survey by Research & Research showed Ahn posted a 10.3 percent support rate. The poll of 1,013 adults across the country conducted between Dec. 27-29 also found Ahn garnered the highest support rate among those in their 20s at 21.4 percent, compared to Lee's 18.2 percent and Yoon's 16.8 percent.

This shows the young voters are largely disappointed by the two major candidates. Regarding the reason for backing Ahn, 49.3 percent of the respondents cited his morality and capability. The survey results show more and more people are disenchanted by the negative campaigns employed by the leading candidates. Furthermore, the election has already become an unprecedented race between the two candidates facing a higher level of public antipathy than empathy.

Both Lee and Yoon need to figure out why Ahn's popularity is growing. An increasing number of people, particularly centrist voters, might have begun to feel disillusioned by their populist and negative campaign tactics. They should read the minds of young voters in their 20s and 30s who are rushing to support Ahn. The PPP's Yoon, in particular, should overhaul his campaign strategy as many people are turning their backs on him and shifting their support to Ahn due mainly to a series of controversial remarks and a lack of policy proposals, calling into question his competence and qualification as a presidential candidate.

Now it is high time for the candidates to concentrate on policy competition instead of a smear campaign. They should stop negative campaigns which may deepen conflicts and division among people. They also need to refrain from making any populist pledges that will undermine the nation's democracy. In this vein, an extra budget bill pushed by the rival parties to provide more financial support for pandemic-hit small business owners and self-employed people raises public concern as it is seen as a populist move to woo voters ahead of the election.

The parties and their candidates should not go too far in mobilizing taxpayers' money for political gains in the election. They must pay more attention to growing worries about their ill-conceived efforts to "buy votes" with pork-barrel projects and COVID-19 relief funds which will hurt the government's fiscal health. It is not proper to talk about the supplementary budget only one month after this year's state budget was passed through the National Assembly.
(END)

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