With the June 13 local elections just two months away, attention is on who will become "the face of the party" to promote the party in the election campaign. Each party is in a different situation, with one ready to conduct party primaries to determine the party's candidate, and another nearly finished selecting its major mayoral and gubernatorial candidates. However, the outline of the competition is slowly coming into view.
■ Moon Jae-in and Caution in “Abundance”
For the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, President Moon Jae-in, who continues to enjoy high approval ratings in the 70% level, despite it already being his eleventh month in office, is the most popular face. The party expects to enjoy a "coattail effect" by just tagging along by the president's hem. The Democratic Party decided to allow the use of the names of former and incumbent presidents, such as Roh Moo-hyun and Moon Jae-in in the survey for the primaries as a strategy to extend this effect into the local elections.
In addition, star politicians, such as Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung and lawmaker Kim Kyoung-soo, are each making progress as candidates in the local election, so the party expects to enjoy a "trickle-down effect" in the elections for metropolitan and provincial councils as well as for chief-executives of smaller cities and counties.
However, the Democratic Party is worried about promoting Moon Jae-in as the face of the party in some areas where the competition in the primaries are expected to intensify into a possible mud fight. At a meeting of the party's lawmakers on April 9, party leader Choo Mi-ae said, "I ask you (potential candidates) to refrain from using phrases that could put a burden on the president. Please, do not disgrace the president with loud banners and sashes." There is also a need to pull the brakes on the negative campaigning occurring in Gyeonggi, Jeollanam-do and Daejeon.
■ "Chicken Ribs" Hong Joon-pyo: Hard to Discard Despite the Lack of Interest
The Liberty Korea Party is in a dilemma over the party's leader Hong Joon-pyo. The voters see the party as Hong Joon-pyo's party due to his controversial attempt to do as he pleased in the process of nominating candidates, but the candidates who will personally be running in the elections are torn over whether or not they should promote Hong.
Former governor Kim Tae-ho, who has been selected as the candidate for governor of Gyeongsangnam-do held a press conference on April 9 and said, "The expiration date for Hong's remarks (that the race for the governor of Gyeongsangnam-do will be a vote of confidence on Hong Joon-pyo) has passed. The people will choose me only when they have evaluated Kim Tae-ho’s administrative performance and have expectations for how he will run the province."
Governor Nam Kyung-pil, who is the candidate for the governor of Gyeonggi-do, also said, "He needs to fix his way of speaking," referring to Hong. The number of candidates putting a distance with the party is increasing as the party finalizes its candidate selection.
Some in the party argue that they need a moderate co-chairman of the election campaign to weaken the "strong" image of Hong.
■ "Cheerleader" Yoo Seong-min
As for the Bareun Mirae Party, Ahn Cheol-soo, head of candidate recruitments, who has declared his bid for Seoul mayor, and co-leader Yoo Seong-min are expected to lead the election campaign.
As the "player-coach," Ahn is expected to attract the votes in the Seoul metropolitan area, while Yoo will travel throughout the nation as "director cum cheerleader" as chairman of the election campaign. In addition to the party's primary goal of increasing the number of elected candidates, the Bareun Mirae Party's main goal is to be recognized as an alternative by defeating the Liberty Korea Party in the elections.
However, the different views of Yoo, who has said he is open to any implicit or partial solidarity with the Liberty Korea Party, and Ahn, who is absolutely against it, is an uneasy factor that can lead to internal discord.
The Party for Democracy and Peace declared an early shift to the election system on April 11 and was the first of the five political parties to launch its election system, but the party is still suffering from low approval ratings and lack of candidates.
From the Justice Party, star politicians representing the progressives, such as floor leader Roh Hoe-chan and lawmaker Sim Sang-jeung, will not be running in the upcoming local elections, but the party plans to win in the elections for seats in the local council with reform policies, such as reforms to the election system and pledges to fight fine dust, and a vision of grassroots politics centered on the part members.