A centrist faction within the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy on Monday discussed whether triangulation ― an election tactic candidates use to distance themselves from established politics ― could help the opposition catch up with the ruling Saenuri Party.
The Saenuri Party had an approval rating of 42 percent over the NPAD’s 31 percent as of last Thursday according to Gallup Korea. The ruling party has maintained a comfortable lead against the NPAD in approval surveys since early last year, despite recent political turmoil over the Sewol sinking and the nomination of suspected extreme-rightist Moon Chang-keuk as the next prime minister.
And according to invited experts and NPAD officials calling themselves the “Minjipmo” ― meaning “the group to get the NPAD to the presidency” ― at a Monday conference held in parliament, triangulation could help the opposition turn the tables.
And even perhaps enable them to win the 2016 general elections and the 2017 presidential race.
Campaigners using triangulation pursue an inclusive agenda that incorporates the opposing candidate’s election pledges into their own. This allows a camp to steal votes from the competitor while also portraying their candidate as a more inclusive person. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former President Kim Dae-jung are famous users of this tactic.
The NPAD’s Daegu mayor candidate Kim Boo-kyum also used triangulation successfully in the recent June local elections, according to Kim Tae-il, professor of Korean politics at Yeungnam University, who spoke at the roundtable.
Kim Boo-kyum won more than 40 percent of the votes as an opposition candidate in a region that is traditionally dominated by the Saenuri Party. Although he fell well short of defeating his Saenuri foe Kwon Young-jin, he showed regionalism could be shaken up with a well-run campaign.
Kim achieved his feat in the southeastern city that is also the hometown of President Park Geun-hye. In the 2012 presidential race, more than 80 percent of balloters picked the Saenuri Party’s Park over the opposition candidate Moon Jae-in.
“The (triangulation) tactic allowed the NPAD to absorb a lot of the swing voters (during the June local elections),” professor Kim said.
Triangulation methods also helped Seoul mayor Park Won-soon of the NPAD defeat the Saenuri Party’s Chung Mong-joon, according to Lee Tae-gyu and Ha Seung-chang, both senior NPAD officials. Analysts consider Park a likely opposition candidate for the 2017 presidential race.
“Triangulation worked because many swing voters today have a complicated political agenda,” Kim said at the conference. “They sometimes have a conservative national security agenda while also harboring liberal economic thoughts.”
NPAD Rep. Lee Un-ju agreed.
“Mr. Kim is right. The opposition has a lot of potential white collar supporters,” she said. “Swing voters today are not swing voters because they’re stupid. They have a sophisticated agenda.”
Fellow NPAD Rep. Lee Sang-min offered a different perspective.
“I understand such a tactic could help candidates get elected, but how does this help us develop Korean party politics?” he said. “Making today’s party politics more mature would help our society more than pursuing tactics (like triangulation).”