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General elections mired in uncertainty without constituencies

With just 100 days to go before voters cast their ballots, the general elections in April remain mired in uncertainty due to the absence of local constituencies.

Rival parties have failed to fully agree on redrawing the electoral constituency map for the elections on April 13. The current electoral map became invalid by the end of 2015.

For the first time in history, candidates seeking parliamentary seats in the 20th National Assembly are jockeying for position ahead of elections without exactly knowing the constituencies.

The rival parties are required to redraw electoral districts as the Constitutional Court ruled in October 2014 that the electoral map was unconstitutional, citing unequal representation.

The court said that the population differences between electoral districts should be reduced to two-to-one, noting the most populous electoral districts outweigh the least populous three seats to one.

National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa has urged the rival parties to reach a settlement and warned that he has no other choice but to ask a committee under the nation's election watchdog to make the decision instead.

Chung said he plans to exercise his authority to send a new electoral constituency bill to the floor at a parliamentary plenary session on Friday and forcibly put it to a vote.

Under the National Assembly Act, a National Assembly speaker can table a bill in a plenary session in the event of a natural disaster, state emergency or agreement between rival parties.

The subcommittee under the National Election Commission, however, failed last week to agree on which electoral districts should be selected for readjustment, further dimming prospects.

Political analysts expect that it is very unlikely that the bill will be passed due to the differences of opinion between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea.

In an aim to come up with a breakthrough, Chung once again convened a meeting between Chairman Kim Moo-sung of the Saenuri Party and his counterpart from the Minjoo Party, Moon Jae-in, on Monday.

The Minjoo Party, which changed its name from the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) last week, is also faced with a deepening factional feud.

The crisis was aggravated by Kim Han-gil, a co-founder, quitting his party Sunday, dealing another blow to the embattled party.

"I will dedicate myself to creating a new political order from scratch and winning the general elections (in April)," Kim said in a news conference at the National Assembly.

Kim's announcement comes after the high-profile departure of Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, who announced his departure last month.

Ahn, the founder of the nation's largest anti-virus software firm Ahnlab Co., co-founded the NPAD after merging Kim's main opposition Democratic Party with his supporters. Ahn jointly shared the party's top post with Kim for four months.

Political analysts are keen on whether Kim will join Ahn's new party and whether the new party will threaten the Minjoo Party and take the role of the main opposition party.

When asked whether he will join Ahn's new party, Kim said he will discuss the issue with him but expected a stream of similar desertions from the Minjoo Party.

Reps. Chun Jung-bae and Park Joo-sun, who earlier left the party, also said that they are willing to consider partnerships with Ahn.

The governing Saenuri Party, which seems confident of winning the elections, is also stuck with infighting over party nominations.

Party leader Kim and the faction loyal to President Park Geun-hye have been mired in the feud over a deal on the nomination system.

The deal, struck between party leader Kim and his opposition counterpart, Moon, calls for the selection of candidates by taking into account opinion polls through mobile phones.

Some ruling-party lawmakers have strongly opposed the plan. (Yonhap)
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