PPP set to kick off member vote to pick new leader

SEOUL, The ruling People Power Party (PPP) was set to begin a vote of paying party members Saturday to pick a new leader to head the party through next year’s general elections and help move President Yoon Suk Yeol’s agenda forward.


Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, widely considered Yoon’s favorite, is leading the race with more than 40 percent support, trailed by Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, lawyer Chun Ha-ram and former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, according to recent opinion polls.


A runoff vote will take place if none of them wins a majority in the first vote.


Some 840,000 party members, the biggest for a conservative party to date, are expected to cast their ballots by phone and mobile over the next four days to select one of the four candidates.


The PPP plans to announce the winner in a national convention Wednesday. But in the event of a runoff vote, the party will announce the new leader on March 12.

The upcoming race carries added significance, as the new leader will be tasked to lead the party to win a majority in the National Assembly, after years of the main opposition Democratic Party wielding its majority power to railroad whatever bills it wants, including dismissal motions for Cabinet ministers.


The presidential office is also closely watching the race, as it wants a Yoon loyalist to lead the party and help push his agenda in the National Assembly in the remainder of his five-year term until 2027.


Recent surveys have shown Kim is the dominant frontrunner.


In a poll of 485 PPP supporters conducted by Gongjung on Feb. 27 and 28, Kim earned 45.9 percent, trailed by Ahn at 23 percent, Chun at 12.7 percent and Hwang at 10.6 percent.


A separate poll of 458 PPP supporters conducted by Research View in the same period showed Kim leading the race with 47 percent, followed by Ahn with 23 percent, and Chun and Hwang with 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively.


Both polls had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.


Kim has emphasized his ability to smoothly communicate with the presidential office.


“I will make the People Power Party unite firmly and win an overwhelming victory in next year’s general elections,” Kim said during a joint campaign speech Thursday. “The party leader should communicate and empathize well with the president.”


“Should someone who damages the party by causing internal discord and division be on the forefront again, we cannot resolve problems with livelihoods and the economy,” Kim said in an apparent swipe at his biggest rival, Ahn.


Ahn called on party members to focus on a possible runoff, noting Kim has not earned a majority.


“If you want to make an accurate judgment, please pay attention to the one-on-one debate in the runoff,” Ahn said in the joint campaign speech.


“New doubts surrounding Kim surface each morning,” he said, referring to allegations that Kim could have exercised influence to get a high-speed rail route to pass through a tract of land he owns in the southeastern city of Ulsan and gained profit after the land’s price rose.


Kim has denied the charges and asked the police to launch a probe into the allegations.


Chun, considered an ally of ousted PPP leader Lee Jun-seok, has branded himself as a candidate to renew the party, while Hwang has appealed to traditional conservative supporters.

It is the first time the ruling party will elect its leader only by a vote of party members without including results of public opinion polls. Some observers say the change could make the issue of which candidate Yoon supports a key point.


Others say a change in supporter demographics, such as a rise in younger party members and those based in the greater Seoul area, could affect the final result. The party has traditionally been supported by elderly voters coming from Yeongnam, the country’s southeastern region known as a conservative stronghold.


Alongside the election for party leader, the PPP will pick five members to join the party’s Supreme Council in the national convention. Twelve candidates have been shortlisted.


Source: Yonhap News Agency

scroll to top