Independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo’s political group Sunday convened the first major gathering of founding members and key leadership, accelerating its efforts to build a new opposition party ahead of the April general elections.
With 1,978 members and eight incumbent lawmakers attending the event in Seoul, the group forged a consensus over party platforms and key regulations. Ahn’s new “People’s Party,” its provisional name in English, is slated for launch on Feb. 2.
Under the slogan of “bold change for the future,” the party vowed to prioritize the people’s livelihoods over ideological principles and pledged to emerge as an alternative to the establishment parties by reaching out to both liberal and conservative voters.
“We will bring an end to the era of ideological partisanship and regional division. We will usher in an era of new politics that can embrace reform-minded liberals and conservatives,” said the party’s founding committee in a statement.
The convention elected the leadership to prepare for the party establishment. Former Health Minister Yoon Yeo-joon and Seoul National University professor Han Sang-jin would steer the party in the run-up to the official launch, while Ahn would support the endeavor without holding an official post.
Rep. Ahn-soo(right) attends the convention for his new political group. Yonhap
Despite the party’s effort to emerge as the third-largest political group in the elections, it is appeared to face some challenges over how to recruit new faces. On Friday, the party withdrew membership of some newcomers, who were found to be embroiled in a graft scandal.
Among them are former cabinet members and a prosecutor. Former Agriculture Minister Huh Sin-haeng and prosecutor Han Seung-chul were indicted on bribery charges in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Former Defense Minister Kim Dong-shin had faced similar accusation in 2004. Kim and Han were found innocent.
Critics have accused Ahn of faltering on his pledge to “change old-fashioned politics.” Before he defected from the main opposition the Minjoo Party of Korea last December, Ahn demanded the party take a zero-tolerance policy against the lawmakers who were charged with graft.
He urged the party to deprive the lawmakers of an opportunity to be nominated for the elections, a tough restriction than that of the Minjoo Party’s reform committee. The committee suggested that those lawmakers should be banned from nomination when they were found guilty for their charges.
Ahn first entered politics in 2012 as a fresh figure to overturn the presidential election. After months of campaigning, he gave up his candidacy and united with then-Democratic United Party candidate Rep. Moon Jae-in.
Even after he joined the opposition camp as an independent lawmaker and forming the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, Ahn continued to remain at odds with the party leadership and ended up announcing his defection last month.
By Yeo Jun-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org