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Published : 2014-04-10 10:01
Updated : 2014-04-11 10:36

Reporters surround New Politics Alliance for Democracy cochairman Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo (center) at the National Assembly on Thursday (Lee Gil-dong/ The Korea Herald)
The main opposition party said Thursday it would nominate candidates for the June 4 local elections, overturning its much-repeated pledge and undermining a major element of its founding principles.

The fledgling main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, formed by the former Democratic Party and Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, said Thursday that nominations would be made in compliance with the party vote and opinion poll results.

Faced with resistance from within the party and with the ruling Saenuri Party and Cheong Wa Dae unwilling to negotiate, the NPAD put it to a vote on Wednesday.

In the opinion poll, 50 percent of respondents opposed nominating candidates while 49 percent said the system should be maintained. In the party vote, 57 percent supported the system and 42 percent opposed nominations. On average, over 53 percent said nominations should be made.

“I believe that the result (of the poll) is the party members’ command to win (in the local elections) to gain the power to keep the administration in check,” Ahn said, saying that his opinion cannot carry the same weight as the prevailing opinion among the party members.

“The elections will be difficult, and I will take the lead. If we are unable to achieve transformation through reform and innovation, a regime change will be even more far off.”

NPAD cochairman Rep. Kim Han-gil echoed Ahn in apologizing for the developments, and added that the party would now come together under the goal of winning in the local elections.

“We have no reason not to unite. Unity is a requirement for victory, while division is sufficient cause for defeat,” Kim said.

The ruling Saenuri Party immediately opened fire on the NPAD and Ahn.

“Today, new politics has been completely buried. (The NPAD) should not deceive the public further in the name of new politics,” Saenuri Party spokesman Rep. Park Dae-chul said.

“(Ahn) should take responsibility and apologize for stirring up the political arena by bulldozing ahead against the will of the people and party members.”

With the candidate nomination system controlled by the central party and fueling corrupt practices in the candidacy process, President Park Geun-hye made abolishing the system one of her main political reform pledges.

However, the Saenuri Party backtracked early on, claiming that abolishing the system may be unconstitutional, despite having forgone nominations in the by-elections in April last year.

Although the NPAD, and the DP before it, had maintained that the system should be abolished, the new party’s leadership faced strong resistance from party hard-liners who argued that going ahead with the plans would be detrimental in the upcoming elections.

While the party’s new path falls in line with hard-liners’ demands, experts say that Thursday’s developments would have mixed results.

“There will be two effects. The party will now be able to conduct a systematic election campaign, and it will also prevent (votes from being) spread among opposition candidates. This is the positive (effect),” said Yoon Hee-woong, Min Consulting’s head of public opinion research.

“But the framework of ‘lies and promises’ the opposition built will weaken. In addition, the damage dealt to the status of Ahn, who needs to lead the party in the local elections, will also have a negative impact.”

In promoting its cause, the NPAD attempted to depict the June 4 elections as a battle between promise keepers and breakers, describing the ruling party and the administration as a “force that breaks promises.”

Others paint a grimmer picture for Ahn. Professor Shin Yul of Myongji University projects that Ahn’s political career is likely to sustain irreparable damage as he has essentially overturned his ideals of new politics.

Shin also says that the main opposition is unlikely to benefit significantly from the development, and that nominating candidates will not raise the NPAD’s ratings.

A Gallup Korea poll for the first week of April showed 27 percent of voters supporting the NPAD. In comparison, the figure for the ruling party stood at 43 percent.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)

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