National
Lee to run as independent candidate
Published : Sep 20, 2011 - 21:19
Updated : Sep 20, 2011 - 21:19
Lawyer Na most likely to win GNP ticket to Oct. 26 mayoral by-election


Conservatives’ attempt to form a united front in the Seoul mayoral by-election hit a snag Tuesday, after Lee Seog-yeon, a lawyer backed by right-leaning civil groups, decided to run independently.

Some 200 conservative civic activists issued a statement, vowing their support for Lee.

“We have decided to put up former minister Lee as our candidate for Seoul mayor,” they said in a press statement Tuesday.

Lee plans to register his candidacy as a maverick with the election watchdog after the civic groups hold a formal gathering to endorse the move.

A former minister of government legislation, Lee had been courted by the ruling Grand National Party as a “counter-weapon” against Park Won-soon, a lawyer-turned activist on the political left who leads in most polls.

The party’s enthusiasm for him, however, sagged due to Lee’s lower-than-expected popularity. The party told Lee he would have to compete in its mayoral nomination process if he wants its support. Lee declined, deciding to run independently.

Inside the GNP, female Rep. Na Kyung-won, once considered a fringe candidate, is now emerging as the most likely to win the nomination. Na plans to announce her mayoral bid in the week.

The party will support the winner of its nomination contest in the Oct. 26 election, party leaders said.

“Whoever is chosen as our mayoral candidate, he or she will not face another round of competition with a non-partisan candidate,” GNP Secretary General Rep. Kim Chung-kwon said in a party meeting.

Still, observers say there is a good chance that Lee and the future GNP candidate will unite later on to fend off the challenge of a unified liberal candidate.

Lee also left open such a possibility, saying that conservatives should be not divided.

“The possibility of candidacy unification to field a single conservative candidate is always open for me,” Lee said on a radio program. “But whichever method we take (for the unification process,) a more competitive candidate should stand in the end,” he added.

On the liberals’ side, Park plans to hold a press conference Wednesday to announce his bid formally and unveil his vision for the city.

The liberal opposition Democratic Party is striving to grab voters’ attention to its own nomination race, holding the first TV debate among its four contenders Tuesday.

Four DP members competing to win the party’s mayoral ticket are Reps. Chun Jung-bae, Park Young-sun, Choo Mi-ae and former Rep. Shin Geh-ryoon.

Whoever wins the race will have to face off against Park in order to become the unified candidate supported by all progressive groups.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)
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