Eight lawmakers of the minor Bareun Party were set to officially defect on Wednesday, stepping up efforts to unite the divided conservative bloc and rein in liberal rivals ahead of next year's local elections.
The lawmakers plan to submit their written notifications for defection later in the day and join the main opposition Liberty Korea Party on Thursday, their aides said. They include Reps. Kim Moo-sung, Kim Young-woo, Kang Ghil-boo, Kim Yong-tae and Hwang Young-cheul.
Joo Ho-young, the floor leader of the Bareun Party, is also expected to defect after the party holds a leadership election next Monday.
|Lawmakers from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and Bareun Party hold a meeting on right-wing unity at the National Assembly in Seoul on Nov. 8, 2017. (Yonhap)|
Their defections will reduce the number of the party's legislators to 11 and strip it of its status as a parliamentary negotiating bloc, which requires at least 20 lawmakers of the 299-member National Assembly.
"(After joining the LKP), we will make an appeal for unity among conservatives to declare a new start for a stronger opposition party," Hwang told reporters.
Their departure is seen as a prelude to a major political realignment ahead of the mayoral and gubernatorial elections in June, which are seen as a crucial referendum on President Moon Jae-in's first year in office.
The defections come after the LKP decided to expel corruption-tainted former President Park Geun-hye, a step that many Bareun Party members demanded as a precondition for any merger.
The minor party splintered off from the LKP late last year amid a factional dispute over the massive corruption scandal involving Park.
Those who want to remain in the Bareun Party still view the LKP as an outdated old guard tainted by the disgraced politician, and they stress the need to create "transparent, reformist" conservative forces. (Yonhap)