The ruling conservative Saenuri Party has succeeded in shoving out former floor leader Rep. Yoo Seong-min, whose sour relationship with President Park Geun-hye cost him his party membership but gained him wider support in the lead-up to next month’s general election.
The party appears to remain in disarray, with the chairman refusing to nominate a different candidate for Yoo’s constituency in a show of protest to the pro-Park nomination committee.
Rep. Yoo Seong-min leaves his office in Daegu on Thursday. (Yonhap)
While Yoo pondered a possible nonpartisan alliance with other defectors, party chief Rep. Kim Moo-sung publicly censured the nomination committee on Thursday, further deepening the crack between those pro-Park and those not.
“I have consistently spoken against (the nomination committee’s) candidate selection that violates our party platform and regulations,” Kim said in an urgent press conference.
“(For such reason,) I have decided not to give final approval on the party’s candidates for the remaining five constituencies.”
Of these areas was Dong-gu-B in the southeastern city of Daegu, where the defected Rep. Yoo pledged to run as independent candidate. The nomination committee tapped pro-Park figure Lee Jae-man as party runner for the area, immediately after Yoo made official his defection late on Wednesday.
Kim also pledged to hold off the Supreme Council meeting until the end of Friday, effectively freezing the party’s nomination process during the two-day candidate registration period. He then headed off to his constituency in Busan.
“(Kim’s behavior) is totally irresponsible,” said Supreme Council member Rep. Suh Chung-won, who is pro-Park, told reporters.
Floor leader Rep. Won Yoo-chul, another pro-Park member of the group, summoned a council meeting despite the party chief’s absence, and denounced him by volunteering a press conference, calling his decision “dogmatic.”
The move by party chief Kim, who speaks for the non-Park group, is considered to be an attempt to dodge the public’s resentment toward the nomination committee and its political move to drive out uncooperative members.
At the center of the factional dispute lies the high-handed nomination chief Rep. Lee Hahn-koo, who has bluntly pushed ahead with a candidate plan that favors the pro-Park clique.
“(Rep. Yoo) has insulted our party, betrayed his colleagues and left in search of his own interests,” Lee said Thursday, shrugging off the defection.
“The way that he clings to another parliamentary term or feigns himself as victim is the kind of old political practices that we should eradicate.”
Yoo had announced at the eleventh hour on Wednesday that he will defect from the Saenuri Party and run as an independent candidate in the April 13 general election.
“In reliance on the nation’s constitution, which states that all power originates from the people, I plan to leave my old home and run for the sake of justice,” he said.
“The party’s nomination has been all about political retaliation of the pro-Park against the non-Park.”
The disputed third-termer, once considered a close aide to President Park Geun-hye, has increasingly been under pressure to either drop out of the April race or to exit the party.
Yoo resigned from his post as floor leader last July after the president publicly rebuked him for leading negotiations with the main opposition party on passing a parliamentary revision bill.
He also hinted that he may form a nonpartisan alliance with other non-Park members who have defected.
The exit of Yoo and additional nonmainstream members left the ruling party with 146 out of 292 parliamentary seats.
“Given the consequences of the nomination feuds, the party is likely to lose its parliamentary majority,” said Rep. Chung Doo-un.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org