The main opposition party’s former leader Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo Sunday rejected the incumbent chairman Moon Jae-in’s request to build a coalition leadership, dealing a blow to Moon’s attempt to unite the embattled party ahead of next year’s general election.
Instead, the entrepreneur-turned-politician proposed a plan to select new leadership by holding a party caucus next January and merge with the People’s Reform Party, a newly created opposition party founded by Rep. Chun Jung-bae who defected from the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy in March.
“I believe the coalition will not be enough to bring substantial change to the party and give voters the impression the party is truly harmonized,” said Ahn. “My proposal will serve as a good opportunity for Moon to jump-start (the efforts to overhaul the party).”
On Nov. 18, Moon proposed to build a tentative triumvirate with Ahn and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon in the run-up to the 2016 general election. Moon had proposed to share the leadership position with the NPAD bigwigs during the period. Ahn had reserved judgement.
Ahn reiterated the NPAD should overhaul the party’s “archaic structure” he claims to be out of touch with the general public and build a broad opposition force against the Park Geun-hye administration’s “unilateral governance.”
With refusing to give a direct answer for Ahn’s suggestion, Moon expressed regret over Ahn’s rejection, saying that his coalition scheme aimed to end the party’s factional feud and to unite the party. He noted that he would continue to gather party members’ opinions.
Mayor Park, for his part, vowed to bridge the gap between Ahn and Moon. Park had partly agreed to Moon’s proposal, saying that he would help Moon on the condition that his support does not clash with his position as mayor.
The three-way coalition came amid escalating infighting among the NPAD rival factions over Moon’s push to overhaul the party. It is widely expected that Ahn's rejection would challenge Moon’s leadership and throw the embattled party into a deeper chaos.
Some NPAD nonmainstream members have been lashing out at Moon for steering the party in favor of those in the mainstream loyal to Moon and his political mentor, late President Roh Moo-hyun. Moon dismissed their criticism, saying they were merely trying to have more say over the party’s nomination for the upcoming general elections.
Taking sides with Ahn on Sunday, nonmaintreamers urged Moon to quickly accept Ahn’s proposal.
“(Accepting the offer) is the only way to bring us to victory in the 2016 general election and 2017 presidential election. I sincerely urged Moon to recognize the significance of his decision,” NPAD lawmaker Rep. Park Jie-won said via Facebook. Park was defeated by Moon in the party’s leadership contest in February.
During Moon’s tenure, the NPAD has suffered from low popularity among voters. According to a Nov. 26 survey from local pollster Realmeter, the party’s approval rating stood at 26.7 percent, while the ruling Saenuri Party recorded 43.5 percent.
Moon himself struggled to appeal to voters, particularly those from the NPAD’s stronghold of South Jeolla Province. According to pollster Gallup’s October survey, Moon’s popularity rating as next president stood at 8 percent, 1 percent lower than ruling Saenuri Party chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung.
By Yeo Jun-suk (email@example.com