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Ahn halts talks on unified candidate selection method

Ahn’s aides accuse Moon’s campaign team of maneuvers against him

Independent presidential hopeful Ahn Cheol-soo’s side suspended talks Wednesday on unifying candidacy with Democratic United Party nominee Moon Jae-in, alleging mudslinging, intimidation and breach of rules of negotiation by DUP officials.

The two sides began negotiations Monday to merge their campaigns before the candidate registration, which ends on Nov. 26, to compete against Saenuri Party’s Park Geun-hye.

“Moon’s people are different in what they say and what they do. We doubt whether they are sincerely making efforts toward a change of government, beyond maneuvering to beat candidate Ahn,” Ahn’s spokesman Yoo Min-young said.

“(Moon’s camp) has been asked to address the issue as quickly as possible as the talks continued, but (we) have yet to hear sincere answers. Therefore the negotiations are being halted for the time being,” he added.

The suspension of talks came as a response to reports of Moon’s campaign aides slipping comments implying that independent candidate would be yielding to the DUP candidate. Ahn’s supporters label this as an attempt at intimidation using the party’s superior power base.
Moon Jae-in, Ahn Cheol-soo. (Yonhap News)
Moon Jae-in, Ahn Cheol-soo. (Yonhap News)

An official from the Ahn campaign also noted that Moon’s political aide Baek Won-woo retweeted a message that Lee Tae-kyu, part of Ahn’s three-member negotiating team, was a founding member of the Saenuri Party.

Baek deleted it from his Twitter account and resigned from the post Wednesday.

Ahn’s camp also claimed Kim Ki-sik, a DUP negotiator, violated their agreement not to release the process of their negotiations to the media by raising a need for multiple rounds of TV debates between the two candidates in a radio interview on the same day.

“If visible steps are taken by Moon’s side, we are prepared to resume negotiations at any time. The talks on policies will continue.”

Moon responded to the development saying that he will do all he can to resolve any misunderstandings, saying that he does not know how they came to be.

“I don’t think that anyone talked (about Ahn yielding) publicly. The unification talks are still under way. It is not the time to expect Ahn to yield or any such thing. That is not the camp’s official position, nor have I heard of such talk,” Moon said.

“In any case, resolving misunderstandings is just that, and (I) will request for progress to be made on areas on which agreements have been reached.”

Moon’s campaign aides scrambled to address the issue saying that concerned officials have been taking care not to incite friction with Ahn’s side under “special orders” of Moon.

“There has not been media manipulation conducted on the level of the camp. More attention will be paid in the future to ensure that even minor misunderstandings do not occur,” Moon’s public relations chief Rep. Woo Sang-ho said.

The ruling Saenuri Party did not miss out on the opportunity to attack the two progressive candidates, saying that the fallout was similar to “a crude fight between two individuals.”

The latest developments may also affect the joint political reform declaration, with Yoo saying that although the two sides were waiting for the right timing for the declaration, the situation will be reviewed again.

On Nov. 6, Moon and Ahn announced that they will merge their campaigns for the Dec. 19 election, and that the process of selecting the single candidate will begin with the issuing of a joint declaration on political reform issues.

The talks regarding the declaration were reported to have neared conclusion on Wednesday, and the two sides were in talks to finalize the timing.

Political reform has been at center stage in the merger from the start, but it has also been the main area on which the two progress candidates’ plans show significant disparity.

Last month, Ahn said that the number of National Assembly seats should be reduced to 200 from the current 300, and that the central party system should be abolished. In local politics, the parties are governed by the central party, which has the authority to nominate candidates for general elections.

Moon, on the other hand, has suggested increasing the number of proportional representatives while keeping the total at 300, and altering the role of the central party, including taking away its power of nomination.

By Choi He-suk (