Tech mogul quits Korea race
- Published: 24/11/2012 at 12:47 AM
- Online news:
South Korea's presidential election tightened into a close two-horse race Friday as software mogul Ahn Cheol-Soo withdrew to endorse the main opposition party candidate against conservative favourite Park Geun-Hye.
South Korea's presidential election tightened into a close two-horse race as software mogul Ahn Cheol-Soo, seen here on November 19, withdrew to endorse the main opposition party candidate against conservative favourite Park Geun-Hye.
"I am giving up my presidential candidacy," Ahn told a hastily-arranged press briefing, following weeks of often acrimonious merger talks with Democratic United Party (DUP) candidate Moon Jae-In.
"From now on, Moon Jae-in is the single liberal candidate," Ahn said, calling on supporters of his popular independent campaign to lead Asia's fourth-largest economy to vote for Moon in the December 19 ballot.
Both Ahn and Moon had come under intense pressure to merge their campaigns so as to avoid splitting the liberal vote and hand the presidency to Park who has a lock on the country's conservative electorate.
Polls suggested Park from the ruling New Frontier Party would have easily won in the event of a three-horse race, but put her neck and neck in a face-off with either Moon or Ahn.
"Now the race becomes too close to call," said political commentator Kim Jong-Bae. "But if Ahn refuses to help Moon on his campaign trail, many of Ahn's supporters will abstain from the vote."
Ahn's announcement came just days ahead of a November 26 deadline for the final registration of presidential candidates.
His sudden withdrawal took many by surprise as Ahn and Moon had been locked in negotiations to formulate an opinion poll to decide which of them would step down in favour of the other.
At one point, Ahn had suspended the merger talks, with his camp accusing Moon's campaign of lacking commitment to Ahn's main platform of political reform.
"Locking horns over the method of merging candidacies is not righteous for the people anymore," Ahn told Friday's press briefing, while promising to keep fighting for a "new politics".
The 50-year-old software mogul, who enjoys considerable support among young liberal voters, had entered the presidential race in September, painting himself as an outsider untainted by party politics who represented a public desire for political and economic reform.
The position carried strategic weight given that Moon and Park are both closely associated with former presidents from opposite sides of South Korea's political spectrum.
Park is the daughter of South Korea's former military strongman Park Chung-Hee, while Moon was chief of staff in the administration of former president Roh Moo-Hyun.
Numerous analysts had predicted that Ahn, who has never contested an election or held political office, would stay in the race long enough to push his reformist agenda before stepping aside.
Moon's supporters had long argued that their man would make the better candidate as he has the party base and political experience necessary for the president in dealing with parliament.
A human rights lawyer who was jailed in the 1970s for protesting against military rule, Moon, 59, has impeccable liberal credentials that helped him unify disparate opposition groups into the DUP last year.
Moon has made it clear that he favours closer ties with North Korea and would reverse outgoing president Lee Myung-Bak's policy of linking economic assistance to progress in talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programme.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency