Merging candidacies off the table, says Ahn Cheol-soo
The presidential candidate told an emergency press briefing on Sunday that he will no longer wait for Yoon to respond to his offer to unify his candidacy as an opposition bloc from a week earlier, as it has become apparent that the People Power Party is not interested in the idea whatsoever.
“A week ago I offered to unify my candidacy with the opposition bloc to bring about a better power shift, even though that would make people criticize and mock me for trying again. to give up,” Ahn said during the briefing.
“But candidate Yoon gave no response to my offer. Although I publicly revealed my opinion at a press conference, some members of the main opposition party intervened to undermine the sincerity of my offer of merger and have distorted its meaning.”
On February 13, Ahn publicly suggested the two parties put forward a single candidate to face Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea for the March 9 elections, asking them to choose between him and Yoon through a public opinion poll as both parties did in last year’s mayoral by-elections.
Yoon did not make an official response to Ahn’s offer himself, but the party essentially ignored the offer and downplayed its feasibility and fairness. Its officials added that the proposed investigation was not under consideration, especially when Yoon was listed in recent polls as the leading candidate.
A poll of 1,012 voters from Embrain Public, Kstat Research and Hankook Research conducted Monday through Wednesday showed Yoon leading with 40%, followed by Lee with 31% and Ahn with 8%.
Based on this strong lead, People Power Party Chairman Lee Jun-seok made it clear that negotiations, let alone the merger, will not take place if Ahn wants to make demands, stressing that Ahn should voluntarily concede.
“I think candidate Ahn and his aides expect us to make promises and increase his political prestige,” the president said in an interview with KBS on Sunday. “But it is strictly illegal for candidate Ahn to drop out of the race in exchange for our offer.”
Lee Jun-seok said that if a merger is carried out, it should be advanced enough to be resolved quickly and definitively. He said talks about merging the candidacies should also include talks about fully merging the two parties.
“From what I know, the People’s Party is not considering merging the parties, even if candidate Ahn drops out of the race,” he added. “I believe that means (the People’s Party) wants to start another discussion on a merger for the regional elections, which I strongly oppose.”
Rumors of a merger have been circulating for months, but momentum gathered momentum last week after Ahn’s campaign team mourned the deaths of a local campaign leader and a bus driver who were found dead on Tuesday inside a campaign vehicle after inhaling poison gas.
Ahn said in a YouTube live stream on Saturday that he believed it was his historic duty to finish the race to fulfill their desires, emphasizing that “their sacrifices should never be wasted in vain.”
Following the announcement, Ahn resumed his campaign efforts on Saturday by providing volunteer medical services at a public health center in Jung-gu, central Seoul. He continued his campaign Sunday in the university town of Mapo-gu, west of Seoul, to impress young voters and landlords.
Yet many still viewed the merger as a possibility, as Ahn’s camp risked major financial setbacks if it continued the campaign and spent funds on promotions despite dim prospects for reimbursement.
However, chances remain for both sides to reopen merger talks. There is a full week left until the National Electoral Commission begins printing ballots on February 28 ahead of the March 9 election.
According to the National Election Commission, Ahn has not registered to make a television or radio speech for the upcoming elections, even though registration opened on February 8. Lee recorded 34 speeches, while Yoon signed up for 22.
The People’s Party said Ahn failed to register with the election watchdog to make a speech in broadcast media as part of its campaign strategy to focus on “new media,” but that stands in stark contrast to what Ahn had done in the previous presidential election. .
In 2017, Ahn registered to deliver 44 speeches on broadcast media, the most a candidate can register with the election authority under the Official Elections Act.
Ahn was then one of the three leading candidates in the race, which gave him confidence to spend the money on making televised speeches. He was voting well above 15%, which meant a high likelihood of full reimbursement of his campaign expenses.
The candidate eventually recorded 21.41% of the vote, obtaining full reimbursement by passing the 15% requirement set by the National Electoral Commission.
The situation is markedly different for Ahn in the current run, as his endorsement ratings remain low, making his chances of a full refund unlikely. Reimbursement is not available for candidates obtaining less than 10% of the votes.
Airtime is a very expensive part of the campaign budget, costing hundreds of millions of won for just 20 minutes. The cost is higher for prime time, and leading candidates usually end up spending billions of won just to appear on TV or radio before the election.
By Ko Jun-tae ([email protected])