|Democratic Party chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil (right) and independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo announce their plan to form a new party at the National Assembly in Seoul, Sunday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)|
Democratic Party chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil and independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo have agreed to establish a new political party to challenge the ruling Saenuri Party ahead of local election in June.
The two opposition leaders also said Sunday they will join forces to abolish parties’ candidate nomination for lower-level administration chiefs and councilors as part of their political reform efforts.
The new party will be formed with the unified aim to transfer power from the ruling party in the next presidential election, they said.
“The two sides have agreed to create a new party for new politics as soon as possible and seek a transfer of power in the 2017 (presidential election),” the two leaders said at a news conference held at the National Assembly.
“The government and the ruling party have not repented nor apologized for their lies during the (previous) presidential election and are deceiving the people ahead of the local election. (The alliance) is to judge the politics of lies and lay the foundation for the politics of promise,” they said reading a joint statement. The two reached the agreement late Saturday night in a two-day marathon meeting.
The alliance between the two major opposition blocs is expected to put pressure on the ruling Saenuri Party and bring substantial changes in the current political structure ahead of the upcoming election. The election is seen as a mid-term confidence vote for the Park Geun-hye government which entered its second-year last week. The upcoming election is crucial for the DP as it has failed to win a single election in recent years.
Ruling Saenuri Party spokesman Park Dae-chul shortly denounced the coalition plan as “collusion” and a “low-class political scenario.”
“It is collusion between an emerging party incapable of rehabilitating itself and the DP desperate to form any opposition alliance,” he said. “(The plan) is a predictable low-class political scenario,” he said. The Saenuri spokesman went on to criticize the DP for abandoning “its value and pride,” saying it is not the party’s first attempt to form an election alliance.
Cheong Wa Dae remained silence, saying the presidential office is not in a position to make comments on the move.
The new party is expected to push ahead with forgoing the controversial candidate nomination system and to confront the ruling party’s backtracking on the system.
Abolishing party nominations for candidates for provincial government and councils was central to President Park’s political reform pledge during the 2012 presidential election. The nomination system has been long accused of leading to numerous cases of corruption and other irregularities between parties and those wanting nominations. The ruling Saenuri Pary, however, has opted to introduce an alternative candidate nomination system, claiming that the change could be unconstitutional.
Ahn called for forgoing nominations and urged the DP to join forces to fight against Saenuri’s backtracking. The DP, however, had kept an ambiguous position as maintaining the candidate nomination system was more supported within the party. The main opposition party, instead, has been demanding a statement from the president regarding the issues and apology from her to the public if the pledge is to be scrapped.
Ahn praised the DP’s agreement to abolish the system, saying the party has made a bold step forward new politics.
“Despite political disadvantages, chairman Kim has made the decision not to nominate candidates. This is a big step. Taking this (promise), the new party will continuously bring political reform and present united politics for the people,” Ahn said.
Later in the afternoon, key party officials from the two sides held the first working-level meeting to discuss the formation of the new party. The two will set up a preparatory committee comprised of five members from each side, stressing that they will hold equal status and stakes in the new party, officials said.
DP Rep. Choi Jae-cheon said the envisioned party could be established legally by the end of this month.
The envisioned coalition party, however, is expected to face internal opposition from the two sides as it was announced without gaining consent from party members.
In order to establish a new party with Ahn, the DP has to hold a party convention seeking its members’ consent to dismiss the existing party and join the new party.
Ahn also needs to persuade his supporters who wanted to form a new party with him, not with the DP.
Ahn had planned to form a new party with his own supporters this month. The party named New Politics Party was expected to bring about a three-way competition with the ruling Saenuri Party and DP. DP lawmakers have spoken increasingly critically of Ahn’s plan to create his own party rather than join or form an alliance with the DP, saying his party would seek division in the opposition bloc. Ahn, a former IT entrepreneur and presidential candidate, has enjoyed strong support from young and liberal voters as he called for sweeping political reform to end the corruption-ridden politics.
The DP-Ahn alliance, however, faces a bumpy road ahead, some observers said, citing their unstable and bittersweet relationship.
Ahn gave up his candidacy in the 2012 presidential election to support the DP’s candidate Moon Jae-in. But the two remained at odds after a DP lawmaker claimed last year that Ahn demanded Moon join him in founding a new party and give him sole authority in political reform in return for merging the two campaigns.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)