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Tension escalates in People's Party ahead of party convention

The People’s Party is facing a deepening factional feud over former party leader Ahn Cheol-soo’s bid for chairmanship.

The party, which holds 40 parliamentary seats, is split mainly between Ahn’s supporters and opponents, but Ahn said Wednesday that the clash is occurring due to differing views on how to salvage the party.

Ahn Cheol-soo (Yonhap)
Ahn Cheol-soo (Yonhap)

“The party is currently in a state of crisis and all of us share the same thoughts that we all need to work together. It is only a matter of how,” Ahn told reporters after a party discussion that took place at the National Assembly. “The only way for our party (to survive) is to bring out a consensus on the method, through discussions.”

With Ahn remaining firm on his decision to run in the party convention slated for Aug. 27, possibilities are rising that two rival contenders, Rep. Chun Jung-bae, former party co-chair, and four-term lawmaker Rep. Chung Dong-young might unite against Ahn.

Some 20 People’s Party lawmakers have openly disapproved of Ahn who was previously the party’s presidential candidate, citing his defeat in the May 9 election. They demanded that he stay away from party affairs for the time being.

To his rivals, Ahn’s concept of “extreme-centrism” is one of the main sticking points, as they consider it to be a sign that he may seek a possible alliance with the minor conservative Bareun Party. They say that this would disappoint supporters in the Jeolla provinces, the party’s home turf.

Ahn’s close associate and former lawmaker Moon Byung-ho, on the other hand, claimed that Ahn is the only way for the party to regain the trust of the public.

“How we will survive in the parliament is dependent on the upcoming local elections. In that perspective, many think Ahn should be the chairman of the party,” the former member of the supreme council said in a local radio interview.

“We should not remain as a regional party. Honam voters would want a party that wins support from all regions across the nation,” he added.

Earlier on Wednesday, the party’s spokesperson Kim Yoo-jeong announced the appointment of five members to the party’s convention preparation committee, which was left vacant after previous members quit Monday.

The previous five included committee chief Rep. Hwang Ju-hong and Rep. Chang Jung-sook. They were against Ahn and resigned from their posts as they sought to maintain a fair election.

The two-day candidacy registration period starts Thursday, and a ceremony for fair election is scheduled for Monday, the spokesperson said.

By Jo He-rim (