Independent politician Ahn Cheol-soo’s by-election victory has given the former academic a more secure footing for his “new politics” drive likely to pose a challenge to the powerful opposition Democratic United Party.
On Wednesday, the former presidential candidate and software engineer took Seoul’s Nowon-C parliamentary constituency with 60.46 percent of the vote.
In contrast to Ahn’s landslide win, all six DUP candidates who ran in the by-elections for regional government and council seats were defeated by independent or Saenuri Party candidates.
While Ahn’s win by itself will have a limited impact on the DUP, his future plans will have long-lasting and sweeping implications for the main opposition.
The DUP has long called for the former academic to join its ranks as he develops his political career, but Ahn has yet to state whether he will take the offer or set up his own party.
|Ahn Cheol-soo waves to express thanks to residents of Nowon, Seoul, on Thursday, a day after he won a parliamentary by-election in the constituency. (Yonhap News)|
“I think parliamentary activities need preparation, and (conducting them) needs time. I will announce my future plans after these things have been taken care of to a certain extent,” Ahn said after his victory was confirmed.
Following the crushing defeat, the DUP has again emphasized its plans to renew itself.
“The public opinion shown in the elections will be an opportunity to further stimulate the opposition bloc. It has once again been proven that the path the DUP needs to take is innovation and more self-reflection,” DUP floor leader Rep. Park Ki-choon said Thursday.
However, despite such words and Ahn’s caution, those close to the first-term lawmaker have indicated that joining the DUP is unlikely as things stand.
“Judging by the flow of public sentiment, it seems that the prevalent opinion is negative about whether DUP can be made into a party that solved everyday problems for the people by remodeling it,” said Lee Sang-gap, a lawyer who headed the team in charge of complaints during Ahn’s presidential campaign in a radio interview on Thursday.
“Even reconstruction would be insufficient. (The DUP) needs to undergo changes on par with a development of a new city.”
As the situation stands, Ahn and his followers are considered likely to form a competitive relationship with the opposition bloc for the time being.
In that scenario, observers call the by-elections in October the “mini general elections” due to the large number of parliamentary seats that will be contested, and due to implications the results will have on the composition of the National Assembly.
In October’s by-elections as many as 15 parliamentary seats could be at stake, of which 10 are currently held by Saenuri Party lawmakers.
Of the 10, eight are on trial or awaiting results of appeals on charges of Public Official Election Act violations committed by them or their aides, while two ― Reps. Chung Doo-un and Yoon Jin-sik ― have been implicated in the saving banks scandal.
If the ruling party loses more than four of the seats, it will lose the majority in the parliament.
For the DUP, failing to dominate the opposition bloc’s strategies while Ahn’s group makes headway would destabilize its presence as the core force of the progressives.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com