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Opposition leaders quit over election defeat

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Published : 2014-07-31 21:28
Updated : 2014-07-31 21:56

The two leaders of the main opposition party offered to resign Thursday, taking responsibility for its crushing defeat in the parliamentary by-elections.

Reps. Ahn Cheol-soo and Kim Han-gil, cochairmen of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said they would step down from the top posts after the ruling Saenuri party staged a landslide victory by snatching 11 seats in the 15 constituencies up for grabs on Wednesday.

“I humbly accept the people’s will. We lost in an election we needed to have won. I take responsibility for everything and step down,” Kim said at a press conference on Thursday. “I will contribute what I can to reforming the NPAD and winning back the trust of the people.”

Ahn echoed Kim’s sentiments saying simply that he will “take all responsibility.”

With the resignation of the two cochairmen, all NPAD supreme council members will also step down.

In their absence, floor leader Rep. Park Young-sun will serve as the chief of the emergency committee that will replace the supreme council until new leaders are elected. 
Reps. Ahn Cheol-soo (top) and Kim Han-gil, cochairmen of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, make their way to a closed meeting of party leaders in Seoul on Thursday. (Lee Gil-dong/The Korea Herald)

With the Ahn-Kim leadership stepping down, some observers say that the by-elections results will lead to the return of the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction, which the Ahn-Kim leadership had pushed from the center of power.

In Wednesday’s by-elections, the NPAD stopped far short of expectations, securing only four of the 15 constituencies. The impact of the defeat was amplified by the loss of South Jeolla Province’s Suncheon-Gokseong constituency to the Saenuri Party’s Lee Jung-hyun. Lee, a key ally of President Park Geun-hye, is the first conservative to win a parliamentary constituency in South Jeolla Province since 1988.

In addition to the loss of a constituency in its key stronghold, the by-elections saw the defeat of two potential presidential candidates, whom the NPAD was betting on to take conservative electorates.

Former opposition leader Sohn Hak-kyu lost the race for Gyeonggi Province’s Suwon-C to a conservative newcomer, while former South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Du-kwan was knocked out by Hong Cheol-ho in Gimpo.

Such strategic nominations, however, are thought to have been one of the main causes for the defeat.

“(Failing to) conduct the candidate nominations smoothly and to receive public support were factors in the defeat,” Rep. Kim Jae-yun, the NPAD’s public relations chief, said in a radio interview.

“Another is that as an opposition party, (the NPAD) should have chosen either to fight or to focus on policies to win the people’s trust.”

The NPAD has been plagued by the issue of nominating candidates for elections since it was launched. After the former cochairmen promised to abolish the system for local elections, they backtracked. In the run-up to Wednesday’s by-elections, the leadership was accused of disregarding potential candidates for political reasons. In addition, the choice of former police officer Kwon Eun-hee for Gwangju’s Gwangsan-B constituency also caused a big stir over allegations of wrongdoing on Kwon’s part.

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

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