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[Election 2022] Main opposition party’s internal strife still not done

Presidential candidate vowed to start over, launching new campaign team -- but party chairman is not onboard.

People Power Party Chairman Lee Jun-seok leaves his office at the National Assembly on Thursday. (Yonhap)
People Power Party Chairman Lee Jun-seok leaves his office at the National Assembly on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The main opposition People Power Party’s internal conflict is intensifying, with some lawmakers demanding party leader Lee Jun-seok’s resignation despite presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol’s declaration of a “new start” for his campaign team.

At the general meeting of lawmakers Thursday, Yoon and the members were discussing a resolution to recommend that party leader Lee Jun-seok resign. The results had not been released as of Thursday evening.

Lee has come under increasing pressure to step down from his post, following a series of disputes with the presidential candidate that have bogged down the party’s electioneering efforts.

As of Thursday evening, the majority of lawmakers were in approval of Lee’s resignation, while the opposition raised concerns it would damage electioneering with the presidential election just over 60 days away.

“More than the majority of the members are for Lee to step down from post. ... There are also some who say Lee deserves one more chance,” Rep. Lee Yang-soo told reporters as the meeting was proceeding.

Lee joined the general meeting later in the afternoon, delivering an apology for the falling support ratings.

“Everyone, including presidential candidate Yoon and me, we all should take responsibility. We have been passive to recover the falling support rating,” Lee said.

While admitting that he does hold himself responsible for the incidents in the past three weeks, the party leader also said the campaign team has been too immersed with seeking to control Lee, rather than focusing on electioneering.

“When I stepped down from post (of standing chairman at the campaign), I thought I would be happy to take 10 televised interviews a day to speak for the candidate,” Lee said.

“But I see that is not the core problem.”

After Lee’s statement, the general meeting continued on behind closed doors.

Aside from Lee’s resignation, the lawmakers also agreed on Yoon’s appointment of Rep. Kwon Young-se as the head of the campaign team, and also the party’s secretary-general, at the general meeting. For the policy chief, Yoon designated former Jeju Island Gov. Won Hee-ryong.

The presidential candidate pushed forward his plan to name Rep. Lee Chul-gyu as the head in charge of strategy, despite the party chairman’s opposition. Chairman Lee was against giving Rep. Lee the post, as the lawmaker is among the party members calling for his resignation.

Yoon was given full authority over party affairs when he was appointed as the presidential candidate.

The party also reinstated Floor Leader Rep. Kim Ki-hyun and chief policymaker Rep. Kim Do-eup, both who had voluntarily resigned, saying they would take responsibility for internal strife.

Tension of conflict remains

After Yoon’s announcement to launch a new campaign team Wednesday, Chairman Lee reportedly suggested Yoon carry out three electioneering activities with him -- greeting commuters at a subway station in the morning, experience work as a delivery person and establishing gender and e-sports committees at the new campaign headquarters.

But Lee said in a social media post later in the day that his proposals were rejected, and he wished Yoon “good luck” in the election -- distancing himself from the campaign and indicating he would not be supporting Yoon’s electioneering.

On Thursday morning, however, Yoon came to greet people at Yeouido Station without prior notice, and said he came out “to respect Lee’s opinion.”

Lee bristled at not being directly notified about the candidate’s schedule in advance.

Lee and Yoon have been at odds practically since the party launched the election committee, when the two became engaged in a power struggle to bring in figures close to each of them, but not the other.

Their clash was first revealed in early December, when the party chief, who was the campaign’s standing chairman, cut off contact to go on an unannounced road trip deemed to be in protest against Yoon sidelining him in making decisions in the camp.

After Yoon traveled to the southern part of the country to meet Lee, they put on a show of a dramatic reconciliation, but that only lasted for so long.

In a local poll commissioned by MBN and Maeil Business Newspaper on Thursday, 52.6 percent of the respondents said the presidential candidate Yoon is responsible for the conflicts surrounding the operation of the party’s campaign committee, and 25.5 percent put the blame on the party leader Lee.

The survey was conducted among 1,003 people from Tuesday to Wednesday.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)

For more information regarding the survey results, visit the National Election Survey Deliberation Commission homepage.
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