Will Lee survive this election?

Will Lee survive this election?

No one doubts that the PPP’s going to win this election.

A simple reason: now they are the ruling party even though the Minjoo will keep dominating the Assembly for about two more years.

  • In South Korea, the executive has much more authority and power than the legislative.
  • The local governments depend greatly on the central government, from budgets to even policies.
  • When people decide whom to vote for, they will be reminded that the central government is less likely to support their local government if they have an opposition head.

The only question is how big it will be.

  • Of 17 supra-city level precincts (provinces and metropolitan cities), nine will certainly have PPP candidates as their head of government, and four will have Minjoo candidates.
  • Four contested precincts: Provinces Gyeonggi and Chungnam, cities Daejeon and Sejong
  • 12-13 for the PPP would be the most remarkable win, while the Minjoo aims for 8

Much more interesting will be whether Lee Jae-myung could survive the election.

Initially thought to be low-hanging fruit, it appears to be hanging much higher now.

  • The gap between Lee and his competitor Yoon (not that Yoon) has narrowed down below the margin of error.
  • Latest poll from Gallup Korea: Lee 45.5% vs Yoon 44.3%

Context: if Lee wants to run again for the President five years later, he needs to win big.

  • Although he was the party’s presidential candidate, Lee’s influence over the party is weaker than it appears.
  • He only served as a mayor and a governor, not as a lawmaker, so his influence on Yeouido is thin.
  • So-called Lee Jae-myung faction is more of an illusion and will melt away as soon as Lee fails to win this election.
I saw Lee campaigning yesterday (don’t forget to click to read Karl’s reply!)

For Lee, merely winning is not enough.

Minjoo national convention will be held in August to elect the party’s new leader.

  • Even if Lee wins the local election, his journey to the party leadership wouldn’t be easy if his margin is narrow, which appears to be the case according to the polls.
  • Moon’s inner circle has to defend themselves from Lee, who was never friendly to them. They will regroup around their pick for the next party leadership (who it will be is also an interesting question) and hit back.

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Assessing Yoon so far: is the move to Yongsan a success?

My quick conclusion: it’s already a success because it moved!

The hardest part of moving the Presidential office is actually doing it. Almost every President except Park Geun-hye considered it, but none couldn’t execute it. This is why I say it is already a success.

  • I’d like to draw comparison with the 2004 Seoul Public Transit System Reform, which introduced the center bus lane in Seoul.
  • While everyone agreed on its necessity, none but then-mayor Lee Myung-bak dared to try. It was a mess at first (at least I got a free bus ride for a day!) but later became the foothold for MB’s journey to the Blue House.

People who visited the Blue House recently told me they were so impressed by its beauty and its isolatedness. (I haven’t visited yet.) 

When the inside of the Blue House gets open to public, more and more will get the idea why the former Presidential office/residence is often called the nine-fold palace (九重宮闕). A former Blue House cook said the President’s bedroom is about 80 pyeong (=260 square meters or 2800 square feet) but has only one piece of furniture, which is a bed.

Plus, after the move, Pres Yoon is having daily interaction—so-called doorstepping—with the journalists. So far, he has been pretty attentive to the journos’ questions. Yoon will probably break Moon’s number of interactions with the press (I guess it’s about 20) within this month.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether Yoon will keep up his daily interaction during his term, but so far, he has done a pretty good job at shedding authoritarianism in Presidency.

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