Putting its factional dispute on hold, the main opposition Democratic United Party has agreed to continue under acting chairman Moon Sung-keun and elect a new emergency leadership next month.
The DUP’s supreme council members agreed early Monday morning to elect a new floor leader by May 4, who will run the party temporarily until a new formal leadership is elected at the national convention on June 9.
With the leadership selection plan decided, the rivalry among the factions for the seats of the floor leader and the next chairperson is likely to heighten.
Interim leader Moon vowed help the party recover from its electoral defeat and fulfill its pledges.
“(We) will humbly accept the harsh admonishment from the people and brace ourselves better in order to become the governing party with the mandate from the people,” Moon said at a supreme council meeting on Monday.
The leadership plan came after hours of weekend debate among supreme council members. Although the DUP put up a good battle in the metropolitan regions, it failed to secure a majority of seats in the upcoming 300-member National Assembly by winning 127 seats. The ruling Saenuri won 152 seats.
Then-chairwoman Han Myeong-sook resigned two days later, leaving Moon, runner-up to Han in the last national convention in January, to become a provisional chairman in accordance with party regulations.
While most council members supported Moon’s provisional taking of the helm until the next national convention, members who came from the Democratic Party, the precursor to the DUP, opposed. They said the entire leadership should resign for a fresh start. Potential presidential nominees like Sohn Hak-kyu, a senior adviser, also reportedly supported the proposal for an immediate leadership overhaul.
The discord reflected deeply-embedded factional rivalry in the DUP, which largely comprises two factions ― supporters of late President Roh Moo-hyun and former DP members based in the Jeolla region.
Gaining an upper hand for in-house leadership is considered crucial for these factions ahead of the presidential nomination race expected to accelerate between June and August.
Competition for the floor leader position is already heating up, with around 10 lawmakers-elect hinting at their intention to run. They include third-term lawmakers from the metropolitan region such as Park Ki-choon, Yoo In-tae and Jun Byung-hun. Cho Kyeong-tae, who won his third term in the conservative stronghold of Busan, reportedly expressed interest.
Lee Nak-yeon, Kim Dong-cheol and Woo Yoon-keun from the Jeolla provinces as well as Park Byeong-seug and Noh Young-min from Chungcheong are also known to be considering bid for the post.
Candidates for the new leadership to be elected in June and to manage the presidential nomination process have not come forward yet, but local media often mention several potential runners. Among them are former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan of the pro-Roh faction, Woo Sang-ho from a group of young reformists, Moon Hee-sang, former chief-of-staff for Roh and former Culture Minister Kim Han-gil.
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com