Ruling party holds primary for its leadership election in August
SEOUL, The ruling Democratic Party (DP) on Thursday shortlisted three candidates, including seven-term lawmaker Lee Hae-chan, for the post of its next chief at a primary vote in its leadership election.
The liberal party plans to elect a new chief to replace incumbent chairwoman Choo Mi-ae at its national convention on Aug. 25.
Of the eight candidates, party members picked Lee and four-term lawmakers Kim Jin-pyo and Song Young-gil.
Lee, 66, is a seasoned politician who has close ties to President Moon Jae-in. He served as prime minister from 2004-2006 under the administration of President Roh Moo-hyun. President Moon was Roh's chief of staff.
Lee's supporters said that if elected, Lee, a heavyweight in the ruling party, could play a key role in setting better relations with the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.
But some critics raised the need for a shift in generations so the party can remake itself afresh.
"Now, with competent, strong party leadership, we need to buttress the Moon Jae-in government. I will do my best in backing up state affairs by beefing up a consultative meeting among the DP, the government and the presidential office," Lee said in a speech.
The 71-year-old Kim Jin-pyo emphasized his experience as an economic expert at a time when the Moon government is being slammed by opposition parties for its tepid performance on the economic front. Kim served as the finance minister in 2003-2004.
Until recently, Song, 55, was the chairman of a presidential panel designed to seek economic cooperation with Russia and other Northeast Asian countries.
The new DP chief will be tasked with supporting the government's drive for reforms as President Moon has entered his second year in office.
The ruling party secured a huge victory in the June local elections and parliamentary by-elections on the back of strong public support for Moon and his policy of rapprochement with North Korea. The DP controls 129 seats in the 299-member National Assembly.
But the support rates for Moon and the DP have declined for five straight weeks amid signs of a slowing economy and bleak job market situation, according to a recent poll by Gallup Korea.
The government has been dogged by uproar from small business owners over steep hikes in the minimum wage.
Source: Yonhap News Agency