Post-71: Ahn Cheol-Soo Can Destroy (Korea’s) Democratic Party

Ahn Cheol-Soo (안철수) [who I wrote about back at the bottom of post-66] may have it within his power to single-handedly destroy South Korea’s major opposition center-left political party, the Democratic Unity Party (민주통합당), the Korea Herald says.

Americans will know South Korea’s Democratic Party as the party associated with the “Sunshine Policy” vis-a-vis North Korea. This party has had trouble for nearly years now. Recently, it failed to win a majority in the legislature in April 2012 despite favorable conditions (see post-66), then it failed to win the presidency in December 2012. It is my impression that Koreans tend to view the Democratic Party as a party of corrupt, grandstanding, political-hacks.

The Herald, on June 3rd, reported the following public support, as found in a nationwide survey in mid-May 2013:
            21% say they support the Democratic Party (the big center-left party)
            40% say they support the Saenuri Party (the big center-right party)
            39% say they support neither of those parties

The poll also asked about the prospect of an “Ahn Cheol-Soo Party”.
            12% say they would support the Democratic Party if Ahn formed a party [-9%]
            29% say they would support the Saenuri Party if Ahn formed a party [-11%]
            26% say they would support Ahn Cheol-Soo’s party, if he formed one [+26%]
            33% say they would support none of the three parties in that scenario [-6%]

Ahn draws support from left, right, and nonpolitical camps. If the above is accurate, then his party, if formed, would obviously be the new “opposition”. The Democratic Party (with 12% support) would flounder and fold, all else equal.

PictureAhn Cheol-Soo
Potential future president of South Korea

The article quotes a Democratic Party functionary who warns: “(Ahn forming an independent power base) could become a development deserving of an award from the [right-wing] Saenuri Party”. He means Ahn would split the electorate, handing future victories to the right-wing. This is plausible, but not borne out by the polling data above: Ahn draws support evenly from all sides of the spectrum, and 40-45% of the supporters of the new party would actually have been former Saenuri supporters! (11%/26%).

This may cause South-Korean politics to move away from the boringly-binary U.S. model which it has been drifting towards.


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