Rep. Lee Jung-hee, a leader of the Unified Progressive Party, renounced her candidacy for next month’s parliamentary elections amid vote-rigging allegations, apparently aiming to heal a rift in the liberal opposition alliance.
“I am ashamed and sorry for the given situation and hope that my decision will contribute to left-wing solidarity,” a tearful Lee told a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul on Friday.
“I will pay any price to support the liberal camp to win next month’s elections.”
Rep. Lee, one of the three co-chairs of the far-left minority party, had been under public pressure to surrender the nomination after two of her aides were found to have attempted to rig a telephone survey, which was part of the two-party alliance’s joint primary to consolidate candidates.
In the survey conducted over the weekend, Lee beat her rival from the main opposition Democratic United Party, Rep. Kim Hee-chull, to win the nomination as the sole left-wing candidate in Gwanak-B constituency in Seoul.
Lee’s decision came after a closed-door meeting late Thursday with her DUP counterpart Han Myeong-sook and the liberal camp’s strongest presidential hopeful Moon Jae-in.
Rep. Lee Jung-hee, a co-leader of the Unified Progressive Party, announces the renouncing of her candidacy at a news conference in the National Assembly on Friday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
The resignation led to a flurry of concessions from both the DUP and UPP, apparently mending a rift in their alliance against the ruling Saenuri Party in the April 11 vote.
In one of the concessions, DUP candidate Baek Hye-ryeon decided to give up her candidacy in support of a UPP candidate.
She had sought to run in Gyeonggi’s Ansan-Danwon A constituency, challenging the outcome of the inter-party primary, in which she lost to UPP candidate Cho Seong-chan. The UPP had called the move a violation of the agreement between the parties.
“I pay my respect to Rep. Lee for the painful decision she made for the sake of the alliance,” DUP leader Han said. “I am also grateful, and sorry, for candidate Baek for her sacrifice.”
The DUP will back UPP standard-bearers in both the Gwanak-B and Ansan-Danwon A districts, Han said.
Earlier this week, the two liberal groups consolidated their candidates for 69 constituencies across the country, joining forces to try and take the legislative majority from Saenuri.
Signs of a rift surfaced, however, as defeated candidates claimed irregularities in the consolidation process.
At the center of the dispute was UPP leader Lee.
Two of her staffers sent out text messages to about 200 UPP members, asking them to lie about their age to skew the phone survey, which was part of the primary process. The poll had a fixed quota per age group.
Crying foul, Lee’s defeated rival, Rep. Kim, decided to run as an independent.
By Bae Hyun-jung & Lee Sun-young