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Democratic Party’s internal strife broils over chair election rules

Convention preparations committee leader resigns in discontent

Ahn Gyu-baek, head of national convention preparations committee with the Democratic Party of Korea, speaks with reporters before joining a meeting on June 29. (Joint Press Corps)
Ahn Gyu-baek, head of national convention preparations committee with the Democratic Party of Korea, speaks with reporters before joining a meeting on June 29. (Joint Press Corps)
South Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party of Korea’s internal feud is intensifying as members clash over the rules to elect a new chair at the party’s upcoming national convention in August.

Ahn Gyu-baek, head of national convention preparations committee with the Democratic Party, announced his intent to resign from the committee Tuesday to express discontent with the party leadership’s decision to overturn his committee’s suggestion on setting rules for the upcoming chair election.

“As discussions within the national convention preparations committee become meaningless, I believe it is no longer feasible to continue productive discussions,” Ahn said in a Facebook post.

“I am giving up my position as the head of the committee because I believe the position has lost its meaning as well.”

The resignation took place after the Democratic Party’s emergency steering committee disapproved the preparations committee’s suggestions on adjusting bylaws for the chair election.

The committee ruled Monday morning to propose bylaws to by revised so that votes are weighed by the following ratio: senior party members by 30 percent, regular members with voting rights by 40 percent and designated public opinions surveys by 25 percent.

The suggestion also included having the primaries for the chair election have votes weighed of select senior party members by 70 percent and public opinion surveys by 30 percent.

The proposed ratios were largely seen favorable for Rep. Lee Jae-myung, who is widely believed to officiate his run for the chair seat soon. He has been touted as the most likely candidate thus far in public opinion surveys.

But hours later, the emergency steering committee overturned the preparations committee’s proposal to have the primaries only reflect the votes of select senior party members and exclude public opinion surveys from consideration.

Ahn denounced the steering committee for failing to communicate with the preparations committee in making the decision.

A dispute has been expected for the chair election, as the pro-Lee circle and those with ties with former President Moon Jae-in have been in strife since losing the presidential election in March.

Pro-Moon figures have asked that the proportions to stay the same, while Lee’s aides have asked the proportion of public opinion surveys be raised at the cost of proportion for senior party members. But Lee seemingly overturned his aides’ calls to possibly ask for the bylaws to stay intact.

Controversy has also grown beyond setting rules for the chair election, as the party ruled to exclude Park Ji-hyun, former co-chair of the emergency steering committee, from registering as a candidate for the chair race.

The party ruled that Park is not eligible to register as she has not paid her party membership dues at least six times in the past 12 months.

The notice caused a debate over whether the party should make an exception to let Park make her bid, as some argued that Park is a main figure in the party who had called for extensive reforms and overhauls as a means to earn public support.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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