South Korea's left-wing minor party opened a critical meeting Saturday to tackle a scandal and internal feud triggered by allegations of wide-scale election fraud in the selection of proportional candidates in last month's parliamentary race.
The central committee, the highest decision-making body in the Unified Progressive Party (UPP), has been tasked with handling critical issues like demands by some members for all six lawmakers elected under the proportional representation system to resign, and the need for the party leadership to step down for the incident that has drawn considerable public flak.
The country's public prosecutors office is gathering data to conduct its own criminal investigation into the allegations raised, which could lead to considerable fallout for the UPP.
In-house probes revealed that a computer program used for internal online ballots had been changed several times and technical errors occurred, leading to the suspension of votes and undermining the credibility of the online ballots.
The party also admitted votes had been cast en masse through a single Internet Protocol address, an indication of voting irregularities. The IP address, the online equivalent of a street address or a phone number, should be different for each voter.
Despite the results of the initial probes, there is disagreement within the party in regards to the investigations.
"Majority shareholders" that control the party have rejected the findings and are opposed to the registration of the proportional candidates involved.
Party watchers said that there have been considerable under-the-table negotiations to resolve the standoff, yet due to the wide gap in how best to settle the issue, a compromise may not be forthcoming.
There is also speculation that the two sides may physically clash during the committee meeting, with a few hinting that if no settlement is reached, the party that is made up of several progressive groups may split up.
"A clash could occur if critics of the primary election call for a vote on the party's future," a political watcher said.
At present, the central committee is made up of 953 members with a faction of the Democratic Labor Party based in eastern Gyeonggi Province, cited for involvement in the fraud, making up 45 percent of the total. Members of the People's Participation Party led by former Welfare Minister Rhyu Si-min, and other progressive elements make up the rest.
If a vote is cast, there is a chance that hostile public sentiment will force members to accept calls to eject the proportional representatives and force the leadership to resign over the debacle. In addition to the six candidates that won seats in the National Assembly, the party won seven regional seats at the April 11 poll. This makes it the third-largest presence in the 300-seat parliament after the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party.
Related to the uproar, the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), South Korea's progressive umbrella union organization, announced an ultimatum on Friday calling on the UPP to take all necessary steps to reform itself and deal with the election fraud issue.
Insiders at the KCTU said if the party fails to mend its issues, it may withdraw support, which could effectively break up the progressive coalition. (Yonhap News)