The fight at the main opposition party took an ugly turn Monday as rival factions continued to lock horns over reform initiatives and chairman Rep. Moon Jae-in’s leadership became increasingly questionable after his ultimatum last week was seen to further escalate the in-house scuffle.
Moon was absent from the party’s Supreme Council meeting for first time since he seized the chairmanship of the New Political Alliance for Democracy early this year, reflecting a severe disunity within the party and the top man’s weakening leadership.
Moon’s boycott of the meeting reflected his deepening quagmire as he was seen to be left with little alternative to break through the standoff further bogged down by declining approval ratings.
The former presidential candidate of the party had been facing mounting pressure to resign from some party members, mostly members considered outside of the mainstream.
On Wednesday, a central committee of the NPAD is set to decide the fate of the reform measures aimed at adopting a new nomination process ahead of the general elections next year.
Amid controversy over the measures, Moon said last week that he would leave his post if the party disapproved the plan. He, however, agreed to put off his initial plan to push for a vote of confidence until the Chuseok holiday next week.
His surprise announcement, aimed at silencing objections, was seen to cause greater backlash, as the nonmainstream members escalated their demand that the vote on the reform proposals be delayed.
The vote should be put off until after Oct. 8 when the parliamentary audit ends,” said Rep. Moon Byeong-ho, a member of the nonmainstream faction.
“If chairman Moon does not delay it, we will demand a secret ballot, and if that demand is also not met, we will reconsider participating in the vote altogether,” he added.
Rep. Lee Jong-kul, the floor leader of the party, meanwhile, denounced Moon’s plan to hold a vote of confidence saying it reminded him of the Yushin Constitution that gave former President Park Chung-hee dictatorial power. Through the revision of the constitution, Park was able to extend his presidency without seeking reelection. Lee’s remark likening Moon’s plan with the Yushin Constitution enraged the NPAD chairman, a former human rights lawyer who fought against the Park administration, according to sources.
Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, former cochairman of the party, also blasted Moon, saying that his plan has nothing to do with reforming the NPAD and rather has thrown the party into another in a series of power struggles. He also demanded the central committee indefinitely postpone the meeting scheduled to put the reform measure for a vote on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Cho Guk, Seoul National University professor and a member of the Innovation Committee of the party, said that any party member who objects to the party’s rules should either defect or launch a new party, in an apparent rebuke aimed at Ahn.
“A party member should respect the party constitution and its justifiable process,” he tweeted, adding that every politician seeks political gains by denouncing others.
“Moon Jae-in could tighten the grip on the party by supporting the reform measure while Ahn Cheol-soo could prevent Moon from taking control of the party by opposing the initiative. Lawmakers will be given another (parliamentary) term if they abort the plan,” he said.
The remark came amid growing suspicion that Ahn may launch a new party by forming an alliance with Rep. Chun Jung-bae, who defected from the party in apparent opposition to Moon’s leadership. Observers say that Moon could have made the surprising announcement Wednesday, risking his political career in line with the party reform initiatives, to water down the significance of a private meeting between Chun and Ahn on the same day last week.
Chun, who recently won a parliamentary seat in a by-election as an independent candidate, has reportedly asked Ahn to join a new party, a plan which would strike a serious blow to Moon, who wants to gather progressive forces to make head against the conservative bloc ahead of the general elections next year and the 2017 presidential election.
If Moon renews confidence in his chairmanship, chances are high that nonmainstreamers will defect from the party and join a new one, according to insiders. But if he fails to retain his post, Moon could split himself from the party and launch a new one along with the members of the Pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction regarded as mainstreamers, they added.
Han Sang-jin, professor emeritus at Seoul National University, who served as a member of an advisory committee of the party, however, offered a grim picture in a radio interview Monday, saying even if Moon keeps his job, the division within the NPAD would intensify anyway.
The NPAD’s reform proposals call for an electoral committee of nonparty members to nominate candidates for the next parliamentary elections in April. The list also includes offering extra points to fresh figures, women and the handicapped in the nomination process. Nonmainstream members, however, have remained skeptical of the plans, suspecting that the group of mainstreamers, led by Moon, would abuse the reform proposals to pursue their own political agendas.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org