Ahn refuses to back down amid calls to retract his leadership bid

By Catherine Chung
  • Published : Aug 7, 2017 - 16:35
  • Updated : Aug 7, 2017 - 16:37
Ahn Cheol-soo, the former presidential candidate of the minor opposition People's Party, rejected growing calls to retract his leadership bid Monday, renewing his vow to salvage the party beset by internal division and dismal public support.

Since Ahn expressed his intention to run in the Aug. 27 leadership election Thursday, opponents have pressured him to stay low-key at least for the time being to take responsibility for the defeat in the presidential election in May and a crippling fake tip-off scandal.

But he dug in his heels, stressing his role to regain public support and regroup the party ahead of the gubernatorial and mayoral elections next year, which are seen as a public referendum on President Moon Jae-in's first year in office.

"The call for me not to join (the election) is tantamount to the demand for me to quit politics... Reversing my decision is not appropriate for the party as well," the entrepreneur-turned-politician told Yonhap News Agency.

Ahn Cheol-soo, the former presidential candidate of the minor opposition People`s Party, speaks during a meeting with party members in Seoul on Aug. 7, 2017. (Yonhap)

"Currently, our party is indeed in a state of crisis, and I will tell (the opponents) why I could not help but decide to join (the leadership race)," he added.

After the allegations erupted in June that a rank-and-file party member fabricated an election-season tip-off against President Moon Jae-in's son, the party faced its worst crisis since it was launched last year with a rallying cry -- "new, clean politics."

Ahn's rivals sharpened their rhetoric against him.

Chun Jung-bae, the former party co-chair, warned there would be no future for a "party under a senseless leader" in a swipe at Ahn.

"Who would give votes to a party that has a leader doing senseless acts?... There is no future for Ahn himself, and our party could cease to exist (under his leadership)," Chun told reporters.

Chun Jung-bae, the former party co-chair of the minor opposition People`s Party, speaks during a meeting with party members in Muan, 385 kilometers south of Seoul, on Aug. 7, 2017. (Yonhap)

Chun, in particular, raised pressure on Ahn to take due accountability for the drubbing in the presidential poll that caused Park Jie-won, the former party leader, to bow out and triggered the party's leadership vote.

"If Ahn does not give up his bid, which goes against people's will, our party is bound to mess up preparations for next year's elections," he added.

Amid the deepening feud over Ahn's bid, Park, the former leader, called for calm.

"Whatever the reasons may be, it is an election to pick our leader, not to kill the leader," Park said in a Facebook post. "We have to piece together our bright wisdom and walk together forward. We have to go together."

The party, meanwhile, decided to introduce a runoff vote in the upcoming leadership election, a move seen as more favorable to Ahn's opponents. Ahn, however, pledged to follow the new election rule. (Yonhap)