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Park, Moon pitch political reform, chase swing voters

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Published : 2012-12-09 20:47
Updated : 2012-12-09 20:47

With 10 days to go before the presidential election, rival campaigns pitched their visions of political reform Sunday to grab undecided voters, who will determine an increasingly tight race.

Opposition candidate Moon Jae-in laid out a plan to form a grand coalition government embracing a wide range of political forces, apparently targeting those who supported independent Ahn Cheol-soo but turned undecided after his withdrawal late last month.

The struggling Democratic United Party nominee has gained momentum on Thursday after Ahn broke his ambiguous silence and joined his ranks.

“Those who have contributed to political reform and power change will participate in the new government and Cabinet,” Moon told a news conference.

He suggested he will open doors to all allied groups such as Ahn followers and the members of the minority Progressive Justice Party.

“We will build a people’s party, together with all who share a common vision on democracy, welfare and peace,” he said. “The DUP and I are ready to give up on all vested rights in order to create a new political order.”

Despite his emphasis on solidarity, analysts raised concerns that Ahn’s support may have been too late to win back the disappointed moderate-liberal voters.

“Ahn’s pledge to back Moon resulted in a slight fall in Park’s polls, not in the rise of Moon’s,” said Lee Cheol-hee, director of the Dumun Political Strategy Institute.

“The former Ahn supporters who swung to Park tend to turn indecisive again, instead of joining the Moon-Ahn alliance.”

While skepticism remains on the effect of their merger, Moon and Ahn paced busily to boost the voter turnout, which is expected to be one of the top variables for the liberal camp.

They also concentrated their campaigns in Seoul, as well as the southern city of Busan, which is the most progressive-inclined in the conservative Yeongnam region.

Ahn hit the campaign trail to rally support for Moon in Suwon on Sunday.

“If there are people who won’t vote because I dropped out of the race, please tell them to cast their ballots,” Ahn said.
Democratic United Party nominee Moon Jae-in (left) and former independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo meet voters at a subway station in Gunpo, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)

The conservative Saenuri Party denounced their alliance as collusion to win the election and share power between them.

“Moon’s coalition plan is a typical power-dividing scheme made behind closed doors,” said Kim Moo-sung, a senior official at Park’s election camp.

The party announced its own political reform programs to end confrontation, corruption and backdoor deals.

If elected, Park will establish a bipartisan political reform body under the presidential office, said Ahn Dae-hui, who leads a political reform committee in Park’s camp.

Park blasted Moon’s consolidated camp as lacking consistency.

“(Moon, Ahn and leftist Sim Sang-jeung) have little in common in their economic and North Korean policies,” she said.

“If these people come into power, they will waste most of the time on power struggles and policy feuds.”

The key strategy of Park took on a defensive stance to maintain her lead in polls, while appealing to the 40s age group with down-to-earth policies on housing, education, and household debts.

Moon, on the other hand, stepped out more aggressively to underline his recently confirmed alliance with the former independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo and to boost the polls within the week.

According to the public election law, the media and pollsters will be banned from announcing new presidential polls from Thursday up to the election day.

As indecisive voters are easily swayed by poll results, it is generally agreed that the public sentiment will show little change during this last week.

“Moon has completed the (progressive camp’s) alliance by obtaining Ahn’s full support,” said Moon’s public communications chief Woo Sang-ho on Sunday.

“If we narrow the gap with Park and create an upward trend (by Wednesday), we have a considerable chance of winning the race.”
Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye waves to her supporters after delivering a speech on her campaign trail at Gwanghwamun Plaza in central Seoul on Saturday. (Yonhap News)

Park’s camp officials, however, claimed the Moon-Ahn alliance did not highly affect the current stage of the campaign.

“The so-called Ahn Cheol-soo effect was not as visible as the DUP expected,” said Kwon Young-se, the situation room chief of Park’s election committee.

“We will be able to seize victory, if we succeed in winning the voters’ support in the metropolitan area and in the 40s age group.”

According to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security data, the corresponding age group accounts for 21.8 percent of total eligible voters.

This breadwinners’ group is also more susceptible to detailed policy plans, especially on economy and welfare, than to abstract political terms such as power transfer.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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