(ATTN: UPDATES with voter turnout; AMENDS headline)
By Lee Minji
SEOUL, March 4 (Yonhap) — The ruling People’s Power Party (PPP) on Saturday launched a vote of paying party members to choose a new leader who will lead the party in next year’s general election and help advance President Yoon Suk Yeol’s agenda.
Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, widely considered Yoon’s favorite, leads the race with more than 40% support, followed by Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, lawyer Chun Ha-ram and former Prime Minister Hwang. Kyo. -ahn, according to a recent review. polls.
A second round will take place if none of them obtains a majority in the first vote.
Some 840,000 party members, the largest for a Conservative party to date, are expected to vote by phone and mobile over the next four days to select one of four candidates.
On the first day of polls, voter turnout hit a record high of 34.72 percent, PPP officials said.
The PPP plans to announce the winner at a national convention on Wednesday. But in the event of a second round, the party will announce the new leader on March 12.
The upcoming race takes on added significance as the new leader will be tasked with leading the party to win a majority in the National Assembly, after years of the main opposition Democratic Party holding majority power over the bills he wants, including Cabinet of Ministers dismissal motions. .
The presidential office is also watching the race closely, as it wants a Yoon loyalist to lead the party and help push his agenda in the National Assembly through the remainder of his five-year term until 2027.
Recent polls have shown Kim to be the dominant favorite.
In a poll conducted by Gongjung on Feb. 27-28 of 485 PPP supporters, Kim got 45.9%, followed by Ahn at 23%, Chun at 12.7% and Hwang at 10.6%.
A separate poll of 458 PPP supporters conducted by Research View over the same period showed Kim leading the race with 47%, followed by Ahn with 23%, and Chun and Hwang with 12% and 11%, respectively.
Both polls had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Kim highlighted his ability to communicate smoothly with the presidential office.
“I will ensure that the People’s Power Party firmly unites and wins a landslide victory in next year’s general election,” Kim said in a joint campaign speech on Thursday. “The leader of the party must communicate well and sympathize with the president.”
“If someone who harms the party by causing internal discord and division were to come back to the fore, we cannot solve the livelihood and economic issues,” Kim said in a statement. apparent blow to his biggest rival, Ahn.
Ahn called on party members to focus on a possible runoff, noting that Kim failed to secure a majority.
“If you want to make an accurate judgment, please pay attention to the head-to-head debate in the second round,” Ahn said in the joint campaign speech.
“New doubts surrounding Kim are surfacing every morning,” he said, referring to allegations that Kim may have wielded influence to operate a high-speed rail line on land he owns. in the southeastern city of Ulsan and made a profit after land prices rose.
Kim denied the charges and asked the police to investigate the allegations.
Chun, seen as an ally of ousted PPP leader Lee Jun-seok, ran as a candidate to renew the party, while Hwang appealed to traditional conservative supporters.
It is the first time that the ruling party will elect its leader solely by a vote of party members without including the results of opinion polls. Some observers say the change could make the question of which candidate supports Yoon a key issue.
Others say a shift in fan demographics, such as an increase in the number of younger party members and those based in the greater Seoul area, could affect the end result. The party is traditionally backed by older voters in Yeongnam, the southeastern region of the country known as a conservative stronghold.
Along with the election of the party leader, the PPP will choose five members to join the party’s Supreme Council at the national convention. Twelve candidates were shortlisted.
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