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People’s Party struggles to digest defeat in home turf

Ahn Cheol-soo’s disappointing performance in Tuesday’s presidential election has sent the People’s Party into disarray. Party leader Rep. Park Jie-won resigned, taking responsibility for the crushing defeat, while Ahn is considering his future course of action.

Ahn, an IT entrepreneur-turned-centrist candidate, received 21.4 percent of votes in the snap election, coming in third after Moon Jae-in and Hong Joon-pyo.

Moon of the liberal Democratic Party of Korea won with 41.1 percent of votes and was sworn in as president Wednesday. Hong of the conservative Liberty Korea Party garnered 24 percent.

Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential candidate of the centrist People's Party (Yonhap)
Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential candidate of the centrist People's Party (Yonhap)

Ahn founded the People’s Party with a group of former Democratic Party members who opposed Moon.

One issue is whether Ahn, who had quit his lawmaker status amid the presidential run, will leave the centrist party to take responsibility for his worse-than-expected showing in the election, in particular in what was thought to be the party’s home turf, Honam. The region, which consists of Gwangju and the Jeolla provinces, cast a majority of ballots for Moon.

“I will work harder to use my experience of defeat and turn it into an asset for the future and change of the Republic of Korea,”Ahn said during the disbanding ceremony of his campaign office Wednesday.

Political watchers raise the possibility that the People’s Party might seek some form of a coalition with the ruling Democratic Party, as it holds 120 of the total 300 parliamentary seats, which is not enough to push for its agenda unchallenged. The People’s Party has 40 lawmakers at the National Assembly.

Fueling the speculation was Democratic Party Rep. Song Young-gil who said in an interview that policy coordination could be possible between the two groups. But he stressed that the prerequisite for any coalition is Ahn’s departure from the People’s Party.

Ahn has yet to clarify his future course of action, though he admitted that he had failed to meet voters’ expectations. Meanwhile, party Chairman Park Jie-won said he would step down from the internal chief post in responsible for the election failure.

Some supporters of businessman-turned-politician Ahn said that it is time for him to break away from “outdated politicians.”

“Two out of every 10 voters supported him from the party, whose number of Assembly seats is only 40,” a supporter said. “His loss is more attributable to his colleagues than his own qualifications as a presidential candidate.”

By Kim Yon-se (