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DP fears outnumbering by LKP

Jan 17,2020
Concerns are growing inside the ruling party that it will be outnumbered by opposition parties, unless it changes its strategy to accommodate the new rules of proportional representation ahead of the April 15 general election.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and its legislative allies rammed through an election law revision bill last year, introducing a new calculation method for proportional representation. The conservative main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), which vehemently opposed the reform, proclaimed it would create a separate satellite party to exploit the new rules.

The DP has fiercely attacked the LKP’s plan, calling it foul play. DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan made clear that his party will play a fair game in both district and proportional representation races. His attack at the LKP’s strategy for a satellite party continued Thursday.

Concerns, however, are growing inside the DP that the LKP will be able to secure more than half of the 47 proportional representative seats in the legislature, if it operates a satellite party, and the DP’s proportional representatives will be halved. As of now, the DP has 13 proportional lawmakers, which it fears could be reduced to as few as five.

“We need a realistic countermeasure, instead of prompting an ideal,” said a senior DP official.

If the LKP creates a satellite party, it is expected to win up to 28 proportional representation seats in the 300-member legislature. According to the current plan for a new electoral map, several districts nationwide, currently represented by the DP, are also expected to disappear.

“We can’t be optimistic about the upcoming election,” said a DP lawmaker. “If we are behind in proportional seats compared to the LKP, we need a greater victory in the districts than the last general election. But I don’t see any new districts where we can defeat them.”

If the DP loses the election to the LKP, it will also have to surrender the post of the National Assembly speaker. Although the National Assembly Act says the lawmaker who wins a majority vote will be elected as the speaker, the legislature has long respected a tradition that a senior lawmaker of the largest party serves in the post.

“The worst possible scenario is [having an LKP lawmaker as the National Assembly speaker],” said Rep. Lee In-young, floor leader of the DP, in a radio interview Wednesday. “If we had not produced the speaker, we would have not accomplished the election system reform and the prosecution reform.”

In the latest sessions, Speaker Moon Hee-sang allowed voting on reform bills sponsored by the DP, while effectively blocking the LKP’s filibuster campaign. The LKP lawmakers criticized him for unfair operation of the legislature but effectively lost the legislative war.

“If the LKP becomes the largest party, the Moon administration’s operations will be paralyzed,” said a DP official. “We must defeat the LKP at all costs, so we will end up apologizing to the public and creating a satellite party.”

Meanwhile, the DP’s approval rating dropped significantly this week in a public opinion poll, while two conservative parties that are discussing a merger ahead of the April general election recorded a combined approval rating higher than that of the DP.

The Realmeter polling company announced Thursday approval ratings of political parties for the third week of January. According to the announcement, the rating of the DP was 37 percent, which was a 4.1 percentage point drop from the previous week.

The approval rating of the LKP went up by 1.1 percentage points to 32.4 percent. The Party of New Conservatives (PNC), which won 5.3 percent, ranked third. It was the first time that the PNC, launched by eight lawmakers who quit the Bareunmirae Party earlier this month, was included in the weekly poll.

The LKP and the PNC have been negotiating a grand conservative merger since last week to create a new political party by uniting all politicians critical of President Moon and the DP. The two parties’ combined rating was 37.7 percent, slightly higher than the DP’s 37 percent.

The gap between the DP and LKP also shrank. Last week, the DP scored 41.1 percent, while the LKP scored 31.3 percent for a percentage point gap of almost 10. In the latest poll, the gap was reduced to 4.6 percentage points.

The poll was conducted from Jan. 13 to 15 at the request of TBS and surveyed 1,506 adults nationwide. It had a 95 percent confidence level with a plus or minus 2.5 percentage point margin of error.

Realmeter analyzed that confidence in the DP particularly decreased for supporters who were conservative or centrists, indicating that the conservative merger initiative could have affected their outlooks.

The merger initiative is expected to face a turning point when Ahn Cheol-soo, a co-founder of the Bareunmirae Party, will return to Korea on Sunday, ending his self-imposed exile in the United States after declaring he will return to politics.

Ahn, a doctor-turned-software-mogul-turned-academic, entered politics in 2011 with delirious support from young people. He set his sights on such top positions as Seoul mayor and president of Korea but failed and left politics in 2018.

BY SER MYO-JA, JEONG JIN-WOO [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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