S Korean liberal candidates face off in televised debate

November 22, 2012 - 6:29:31 am

SEOUL: South Korea’s two liberal presidential candidates will face off in a TV debate yesterday as they struggle to conclude an agreement on merging their campaigns ahead of the December 19 ballot.

The debate is aimed at helping decide which of the two -- Moon Jae-In from the main opposition Democratic United Party and independent Ahn Cheol-Soo -- should drop out of the race in favour of the other.

They have until a November 26 registration deadline to agree on a unity candidate who will challenge the front-runner, Park Geun-Hye of the ruling conservative New Frontier Party.

The TV debate is seen as crucial given an emerging consensus between the Moon and Ahn camps that the final candidate will be chosen by a series of opinion polls to be conducted over the next few days.

The debate will last nearly two hours, with the two candidates questioning each other on a range of issues in the presence of a moderator whose sole role will be that of timekeeper.

If the two men fail to reach agreement on a merger and end up running separately, they will split the liberal vote and effectively hand the presidency to Park.

While polls suggest Park would easily win in the event of a three-horse race, they put her neck-and-neck in a face-off with either Moon or Ahn.     Afp