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Ahn vows to move forward as 3rd political force

Independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo reiterated Monday that his new party proposed to be launched next month would distance itself from the main opposition party, vowing to transform the decades-old two-party political system into a multiparty system.

“It is an outdated mentality that the opposition must align to do well in the general elections. It seems to suggest that we should maintain the vested interests of the main two parties,” Ahn said in a radio interview with local station CBS. “We must prepare to fight squarely in a three-way format.”

Ahn Cheon-soo
Ahn Cheon-soo

His remarks echoed that of former cochairman and latest Minjoo Party of Korea defector Rep. Kim Han-gil, who said Sunday, “We must tear down the hostile yet symbiotic relationship between the two parties, a political system that has run its course.”

Kim is the ninth former Minjoo Party lawmaker to bolt, and he is widely expected to be followed by at least 10 more, including the party’s veteran Rep. Park Jie-won sometime this week.

If at least 20 Assembly members join under Ahn before the party’s slated launch Feb. 2, the party will gain floor negotiation power ― legally wedging the party into the bipartisan landscape occupied by the conservative and progressive forces originating from Gyeongsang Province and Jeolla Province.

This of course, is premised on the assumption that Ahn’s party will succeed in maintaining the momentum, given that in Korea’s modern political history a third force has often became an auxiliary force of the major party with a limited support base.

One of the imminent challenges is approaching in the parliamentary race, where the new party must cast its lineup of candidates ― a process that has often been the pitfall of factional competition.

Ahn’s provisional party, meanwhile, received mixed approval ratings in polls released Monday.

A survey by pollster Realmeter of 2,135 adults nationwide on Dec. 28-31 showed that 23.6 percent were in support of the Minjoo Party, 1.2 percentage points higher than the week before. Ahn’s party received 17.3 percent, marking a decline of 1.7 percentage points. The ruling Saenuri Party scored 35.2 percent, a drop of 2 percentage points.

“The so-called ‘convention effect’ that persisted for about two weeks after Ahn’s defection is slowing down. ... It also appears to reflect a lower level of attention paid toward (Ahn) due to the newly created conflict between the ruling and opposition parties following the government’s Dec. 28 deal with Japan over sexual slavery,” Realmeter said in its report.

The ratings for Ahn’s party are still likely to rebound when more Minjoo Party lawmakers leave this week, it said.

Of the potential presidential candidates, Minjoo Party’s chairman Rep. Moon Jae-in has maintained the top spot for two consecutive weeks at 19.6 percent, followed by Saenuri leader Rep. Kim Moo-sung with 18.6 percent. Ahn came in at third with 15.2 percent. Others included Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon (9.3 percent), former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon (6.6 percent) and former Saenuri floor leader Rep. Yoo Seung-min (3.8 percent).

In another survey conducted by Hankook Research on 1,000 voters nationwide on Dec. 28-29, 15.1 percent said they would vote for candidates coming from Ahn’s party in the April election, more than those who picked the Minjoo Party at 12.4 percent. Another 23.4 percent said they would vote for a Saenuri Party candidate.

The Saenuri Party seized the top spots in all regions except for the Jeolla provinces, as well as among those aged 50 and over.

The Minjoo Party came in after both the Saenuri Party and Ahn’s new party in all categories except for among those in their 20s and those that identified as progressives.

In the survey, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was the most popular presidential candidate with 21.9 percent, followed by Moon Jae-in (13.4 percent), Kim Moo-sung (10.5 percent), Ahn Cheol-soo (10.4 percent) and Park Won-soon (6.3 percent).

From news reports