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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Dec. 8)

Politics 07:06 December 08, 2022

No time for bickering over nomination rights

Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon made it clear. "As justice minister, I have a lot of work to do. I resolutely say I will do my best as justice minister, That's it," he said. Han, former top prosecutor and a close aide of President Yoon Suk-yeol, made the comment in reaction to the widespread rumor that he will be picked as a candidate to run in a national convention of the People Power Party (PPP), slated for late February or early March next year, to lead the party.

The rumor originated with PPP floor leader Joo Ho-young who hinted at the possibility of electing a fresh party leader to help the embattled party to win the votes of the young and people living in the capital area in the next parliamentary elections in April 2024. PPP interim leader Chung Jin-suk also made similar remarks in line with the comment by the floor leader.

The developments triggered controversy among potential candidates for the new party leadership. Former Rep. Yoo Seong-min said that he is the best person to attract the young votes around the country. Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, a former presidential candidate, stressed the need to zero in on young voters. But Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, a former floor leader, said that such comments ignore other regions and classes to only get the votes from a certain group of people and region. Former Rep. Na Kyung-won, also a former PPP floor leader, attacked Joo for trying to divide the PPP with 16 months left before the parliamentary elections.

As current PPP floor leader Joo and the interim leader made such remarks after having a dinner with Yoon at his presidential residence, many party insiders interpreted them as the president's wish. Despite repeated denials even by pro-Yoon lawmakers, the comments from party leaders continue to shake the party.

Given all troubles from the PPP's minority status in the National Assembly, a victory in the legislative elections is more important than ever. The PPP won only 14 percent of all seats representing Seoul and Gyeonggi province. In contrast, all members of the supreme council of the Democratic Party (DP) and its party leader represent the region. As the DP is a supermajority, the PPP cannot even pass the government's first budget proposals. What the party needs now is internal unity, not a domestic battle to exercise nominations rights in the 2022 elections by becoming head of the minority party.

The strange battle in the PPP reminds us of a crushing defeat the party suffered after being sharply split over the nomination rights ahead of the 2016 parliamentary elections. It is not the time for the PPP to fight over who will exercise nomination rights in the 2022 elections. The conservative party must be awake before it's too late.

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