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(4th LD) Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon elected new leader of ruling party

All News 17:55 March 08, 2023

(ATTN: UPDATES with Kim's acceptance speech, photo, details)
By Lee Minji

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- Four-term lawmaker Kim Gi-hyeon was elected new leader of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) on Wednesday in a boon for President Yoon Suk Yeol seeking to strengthen his grip on the party ahead of next year's general elections.

Kim won 53 percent of the vote against his biggest rival, Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo's 23 percent, making a runoff unnecessary. Lawyer Chun Ha-ram and former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn won 15 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

The result is considered a victory for Yoon, because Kim has widely been known to be Yoon's favorite.

From the start of the race, Kim formed an alliance with Rep. Chang Je-won, a key political brain for Yoon. Some staffers of the presidential office have even been accused of campaigning for Kim in a mobile chat room of PPP members.

Yoon showed up at the national convention held at the KINTEX exhibition center in Goyang, northwest of Seoul, marking the first time in seven years that the president has attended a national convention of the ruling party since former President Park Geun-hye did so in 2016.

In an acceptance speech, Kim pledged to win an "overwhelming victory" in next year's elections.

"By becoming one with fellow party members, I will lead the party to victory in next year's general elections without fail by reviving livelihoods," he said. "Let's achieve an overwhelming victory in next year's elections by becoming one."

Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, the new leader of the ruling People Power Party, raises his hands up in victory after winning the party leadership race in a national convention at the KINTEX exhibition center in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul, on March 8, 2023. (Yonhap)

Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, the new leader of the ruling People Power Party, raises his hands up in victory after winning the party leadership race in a national convention at the KINTEX exhibition center in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul, on March 8, 2023. (Yonhap)

The PPP held a four-day vote through Tuesday, with 461,313 of the 837,236 paying party members casting their ballots by either mobile- or voice-based voting, registering an all-time high turnout of 55.1 percent, an indication of high interest in the race.

The convention was expected to draw as many as 10,000 party members.

The party also elected five members to join its Supreme Council. They are former lawmaker Kim Jae-won, former presidential campaign spokesperson Kim Byung-min, Rep. Cho Su-jin and defector-turned-lawmaker Tae Yong-ho. Jang Ye-chan, an aide to Yoon during his presidential campaign, was elected to a seat allotted for younger politicians aged under 45.

Kim faces tough challenges, both inside and outside the party, as he takes over for a two-year term.

His No. 1 mission is to lead the party to a victory in next year's parliamentary elections so as to take back majority control of the National Assembly from the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) and push Yoon's agenda in the National Assembly.

Closing chasms between pro-Yoon lawmakers and other factions in the party is another task facing Kim. He would also have to keep the party from falling into more turmoil over party nominations for next year's general elections.

Another mission awaiting Kim is smoothing out heightened tensions with his contenders in the leadership race. Earlier this week, Ahn even filed a complaint against a senior presidential aide over the alleged interference with the race by presidential staffers.

Ties with the main opposition are, however, expected to remain rocky for the time being, with the DP accusing Yoon and the ruling party of orchestrating corruption probes to take party leader Lee Jae-myung down.

President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers a speech at a national convention of the ruling People Power Party held at the KINTEX exhibition center in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul, on March 8, 2023. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers a speech at a national convention of the ruling People Power Party held at the KINTEX exhibition center in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul, on March 8, 2023. (Yonhap)

The final candidates for the new ruling People Power Party leader pose during a national convention held at the KINTEX exhibition center in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul, on March 8, 2023. They are (from L to R) Reps. Ahn Cheol-soo and Kim Gi-hyeon, and former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and lawyer Chun Ha-ram. (Yonhap)

The final candidates for the new ruling People Power Party leader pose during a national convention held at the KINTEX exhibition center in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul, on March 8, 2023. They are (from L to R) Reps. Ahn Cheol-soo and Kim Gi-hyeon, and former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and lawyer Chun Ha-ram. (Yonhap)

mlee@yna.co.kr
(END)

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