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Leak causes rift in DP primary race

Mar 24,2017
The Democratic Party (DP) on Thursday scrambled to contain the fallout from the alleged leak of voting results for its four presidential contenders the day before, an unexpected turn of events that outraged campaign teams of the runners-up.

The purported leaked document was indiscriminately circulated online and via social network services just minutes after the DP closed its first round of primary voting at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The country’s largest party opened 250 voting booths across the country Wednesday for those who had registered to vote in the primary to cast ballots to elect the party nominee.

The Wednesday voting was the first stage of the DP primary race. Of the 2.14 million who registered to take part in the DP primary, both those with DP membership and without, 292,980 registered that they would vote Wednesday at 250 polling stations across the country. Of these, 52,886 turned out nationwide.

In the leaked document, the vote counts from 44 of the 250 voting stations were stated, showing frontrunner Moon Jae-in taking the lead with a big margin.

The gap between Moon and the two second runners was wider than many had anticipated, though the DP did not confirm the figures. Taken aback by the leak, the DP issued an emergency statement Wednesday night, saying, “unverified vote counts are indiscriminately circulated.”

The DP tried to discredit the leaked document on Thursday, saying its figures were not credible. Nevertheless, it acknowledged that people who had inspected the vote counts on Wednesday might have compiled the numbers, an acknowledgment that suggests the figures in the leaked document does reflect the actual voting outcome.

The leak immediately sent shockwaves through the campaigns of South Chungcheong Governor An Hee-jung and Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung. Both campaigns’ operatives demanded a thorough investigation.

The leak came at a sensitive moment, as the DP is set to hold a Gwangju primary election on Monday and three major contenders have been pouring in efforts to appeal to voters there. Prior to the Monday election in Gwangju, the DP will receive ballots via telephone and mobile voting on Saturday and Sunday from registered voters in Jeolla region.

The fact that nearly 1,000 inspectors from campaign teams were dispatched to watch voting counts at the 250 voting booths raises the possibility that some of them were involved in the leak.

The Lee Jae-myung campaign team seemed most frustrated with the leak on Thursday, demanding that party headquarters sack the head of the DP’s election commission. The Lee campaign also criticized the party election commission for not taking the issue seriously. “The commission’s stance that the leaked document bears no credibility and that it would soon launch a probe falls far short of the necessary steps it must take,” said Kim Byung-wook, the Lee campaign spokesman. “The party chief should offer an apology for the leak and the party leaders should come up with countermeasures to prevent such leaks in the future.”

The An and Lee campaigns are concerned that the leak could end up helping the Moon campaign by re-enforcing public perception that the frontrunner will easily win the party nomination despite hard work by the two second runners. Moon’s two rivals worry that such perception could discourage their supporters from taking part in the primary, thinking it is already all over but the shouting.

The An campaign also called on the party to hold those accountable for the leak, saying the credibility and fairness of the primary race was at stake.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]