Leaders of rival parties agree on need for open primary

January 17, 2012 11:43 pm 

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Jan. 17 — The ruling and opposition parties agreed Tuesday the current election law needs to be revised to adopt an open primary system to allow the parties to select election candidates through contests open to non-party members.

An open primary is a system in which ordinary people are allowed to cast votes to select candidates even if they are not party members.

The candidates who receive the most votes in the primaries win nominations for the general elections.

Rep. Park Geun-hye, who chairs the ruling Grand National Party's emergency council, made the offer during a meeting with Han Myeong-sook, newly elected chairwoman of the main opposition Democratic United Party.

"(The GNP) decided to adopt an open primary to improve our political system by giving voters the right to choose their candidates," Park said, proposing negotiations with the opposition party to revise the current law in the parliament.

Han, who also pledged to reform her party's nomination process, responded positively to Park's offer.

"People want to exercise their power and their demand is strong," Han replied. "If voters have the right to pick their candidates, it would contribute to reform the nomination process to the level that meets public expectations."

Park's suggestion came after the GNP's emergency council Monday unveiled a plan to replace unpopular incumbents with fresh alternatives and choose 80 percent of candidates for April's general elections through open contests with participation by both party members and non-affiliated voters.

Han also vowed to pick candidates through a fair and transparent system as the DUP, born out of a merger between the main opposition party and a novice party, is trying to put different factions together to raise liberals' chances of victory in the April election.

Despite a general consensus on the issue, Park and Han differed on how to implement the new system.

While the DUP has adopted the mobile voting system for efficiency, which was successfully used in the party's leadership contest, the GNP is cautious about holding online polls with concerns over proxy votes.

Their meeting has drawn keen attention as the leaders are set to compete with each other while preparing for the April polls, which would provide a gauge of public sentiment before the December presidential race.

During her campaigns, Han, who served as the nation's first female prime minister under late President Roh Moo-hyun, had marketed herself as the strongest rival to take down Park, the conservative camp's front-runner.

Dubbed as the "queen of elections," Park has taken helm of the beleaguered ruling party last month with growing calls from her supporters to revive her party like she did before the 2004 elections when the party was suffering from a series of corruption scandals. (PNA/Yonhap) DCT/hbc/eds

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