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GNP cliques clash after by-election shocks

By 배현정

Published : May 2, 2011 - 19:41

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The ruling Grand National Party, in the aftermath of its defeat in last week’s by-elections, held an intra party debate in which opposing factions clashed over how to start over.

More than 110 lawmakers participated and 19 volunteered to speak in the hours-long debate on Monday, according to party officials.

“We are on the verge of a major crisis,” said the party floor leader Kim Moo-sung in his opening speech.

“All of us are responsible for the by-election defeats and we should now hear the people’s voices, which scold us for our faults.”

During the debate, the pro-Lee Myung-bak group, mostly stressed that the party should unite against its current challenges.

The pro-Park Geun-hye group and neutral factions however, focused more on the replacement of present leaders.

All members nevertheless were cautious not to censure a specific person or faction so as to avoid mudslinging.

“The pro-Lee group has long monopolized major party affairs, thus losing contact with minority opinions within the party or with the public,” said Rep. Kim Sung-tae, leader of reformative junior lawmakers.
Newly elected Kim Tae-ho (left) and party leader secretary Won Hee-mok of the ruling Grand National Party exchange opinions during the in-party debate Monday morning. (Yang Dong-chul/The Korea Herald) Newly elected Kim Tae-ho (left) and party leader secretary Won Hee-mok of the ruling Grand National Party exchange opinions during the in-party debate Monday morning. (Yang Dong-chul/The Korea Herald)

Kim also demanded that the emergency panel be composed of reformers.

The members of the Supreme Council resolved last week to step down and give way to a temporary emergency panel until a new leadership is established.

Many also showed concern for the fallen reputation of the party.

“The present animosity among the public against the ruling party may become as bad as in 2004,” said Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, a junior lawmaker.

The GNP, after the impeachment bill against former President Roh Moo-hyun, faced a backlash from the public who considered the actions excessive and politically motivated.

“The people are turning their back on the ruling party and it is said that we may face even more crushing defeats next year, unless we start anew,” said Kim Tae-ho, who a elected lawmaker from last week’s race.

The former South Gyeongsang governor who won the competition in Gimhae was largely evaluated as winning voters’ support on his own, with little help from his party.

Rep. Lee Koon-hyon, on the other hand, said that the best way to pull the party back together is for all influential groups to unite and speak as one, without excluding any specific factions. Lee is recognized as a core supporter of the president.

Other lawmakers stressed that the party should first cured of its long-standing conflict between the pro-Lee and pro-Park factions, along with the strife between seniors and juniors.

“We may not expect any positive results in the upcoming elections unless we first rid ourselves of our chronic discord,” said Rep. Won Yoo-chul.

Former party leader Chung Mong-joon also told reporters before the debate that a key figure is needed to unite the members and lead the party out of its current setbacks.

While opinions clashed over the party’s future, an internal race is to be held this Friday to select a new floor leader and policy committee chairman, according to officials.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)