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Opposition party mulls right-wing alliance

People Power Party floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young (Yonhap)
People Power Party floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young (Yonhap)
The floor leader of the main opposition People Power Party on Wednesday hinted at the possibility of a right-wing alliance in next year’s Seoul and Busan mayoral by-elections.

People Power Party floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young said he sees “a very high probability” that his party could join hands with Ahn Cheol-soo, head of the minor opposition People’s Party, and former lawmaker Keum Tae-sup, who defected from the ruling Democratic Party in October.

Joo said the tie-up could take place when the election campaign enters its final stretch. The 2021 by-elections for the country’s two largest cities are slated for April 7.

“Both Ahn and Keum take the view that this administration (of President Moon Jae-in) is going wrong,” he said during an MBC radio interview.

“People say the most important thing in elections is composition. There will be higher chances of winning when like-minded people join forces and field a sole candidate.”

The two mayoral seats were vacated this year after two Democratic Party members failed to fulfill their terms. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon took his own life after sexual harassment allegations emerged in July. Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don stepped down from his post after admitting he had sexually harassed a female civil servant in April.

As the by-elections are expected to serve as a litmus test of public opinion ahead of the 2022 presidential election, political parties are cautiously searching for candidates.

Ahn Cheol-soo, a former presidential candidate, has been deemed one of the potential candidates for Seoul mayor, although he has been reluctant to run.

A hasty decision to do so could inflict political damage on Ahn, according to Joo.

“I think Ahn will only start to make moves when it becomes certain that he could be the sole candidate for an anti-Democratic party group,” he said.

Keum Tae-sup, now a lawyer, has been the subject of speculation as to whether he would run for Seoul mayor as an independent or representing the opposition party.

To field Ahn or Keum as a candidate, the party would need to revise its internal rules and constitution, which stipulate that a candidate for an election should be picked through the party’s primary race and a public poll, Joo said.

Regarding Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol, who has shown growing popularity as a presidential candidate in recent surveys, Joo expressed a negative view.

“It is undesirable that an incumbent official who is in a position that requires him to keep political neutrality strictly get embroiled in political issues,” Joo said.

The floor leader said he would not approve of Yoon beginning a political career after completing his service as prosecutor general.

“I think the country needs elder doyens who protect and stick to their areas of expertise and who earn respect for that,” he said.

Yoon ranked third in an opinion poll on potential presidential candidates released by Relameter on Monday, gaining support from 17.2 percent of respondents. The latest figure showed that his popularity had increased 6.7 percent points from a month earlier, hitting its highest point.

Two Democratic Party members -- Lee Jae-myung, governor of Gyeonggi Province, and Lee Nak-yon, the party’s chief and a former prime minister -- were tied for the lead in the same poll at 21.5 percent.

By Park Han-na (