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Ahn's withdrawal shakes up Korean presidential race

Publication Date : 25-11-2012


Independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo quit the presidential race Friday, calling for support for the Democratic United Party (DUP)’s Moon Jae-in, after prolonged negotiations over a candidacy merger failed.

With the independent candidate stepping down, Moon will now represent the main progressive bloc against the ruling Saenuri Party’s Park Geun-hye in the December 19 election.

“I am relinquishing my role as a candidate. My becoming the president to bring new politics is important but a politician keeping the promises made to the public is the most important value of all,” Ahn said in a press conference.

“The unified candidate is now Moon Jae-in, so reprimand me for all the discord during the process, and give Moon your support.”

Ahn, a former software businessman and professor, jumped into the presidential race in September. He sought an alliance with Moon for political reform and a change of government.

In the news conference, he added that he would continue to work for reform.

“I step down without bringing the public’s desire for change because I am lacking, but I will not forget the duty given to me. I will throw myself into the task regardless of how thorny a path that may be.”

Minutes after his announcement, Moon said on his Twitter account, “I am deeply sorry to Ahn and his supporters.”

The decision came after Ahn and Moon’s representatives, including special envoys, failed to reach an agreement over the format and wording of the opinion poll to decide the single progressive candidate after days of negotiations.

In the final discussions, the two sides had been negotiating for a compromise The DUP proposed asking the respondents who was more suitable as a candidate and who was more likely to beat Park. Ahn’s “final proposal” substituted the question of suitability with approval rating in the survey.

As the two sides fought over the details, the pressure from outside the political arena had been mounting.

On Thursday, a man in his 50s killed himself after leaving a note urging Ahn and Moon to form a united front, while an organisation of young Ahn and Moon supporters issued a statement calling for the two candidates to work together.

“Ahn has made a big decision for bringing about a change of administration. We all have a big debt to Ahn,” said DUP Rep. Jin Sung-joon, Moon’s campaign spokesman. He also conveyed an apology and thanks to the independent candidate, echoing Moon’s Twitter comment.

“We will work with Ahn and all the members of the public who supported him to obtain the change of administration and pioneer new politics and a new era.”

Jin also said that Moon would take the time to show due courtesy to Ahn in the near future.

Although the election remains more than three weeks away, Ahn’s decision came as Moon was seeing his highest approval ratings as a presidential candidate, and also as the representative of the progressive bloc.

Gallup Korea’s polls for November 19 to November 21 placed Moon ahead of Park in a two-way race, with 46 per cent against the conservative candidate’s 45 per cent.

Ahn and Park tied in the latest poll with each garnering 45 per cent.

The polls also showed that Moon had a significant lead over Ahn as the favoured unified candidate for the progressive bloc.

The ruling party, which had been mounting increasingly vehement attacks against Ahn and Moon, did not miss out on the opportunity and directed an attack against the DUP.

“Ahn Cheol-soo’s experimental efforts for political reform appear to have run into the wall of the DUP’s crafty old politics and fallen apart,” Ahn Hyeong-hwan, spokesman for Saenuri Party’s central election committee, said in a statement released immediately after Ahn’s announcement.

“The Saenuri Party and Park will continue to move forward for political reform and for social integration.”


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