Merger of conservatives is proposed

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Merger of conservatives is proposed

Proposing an unconditional merger with the Grand National Party, Suh Chung-won, the former GNP chairman who currently heads the spin-off minority party Solidarity for Future and Hope, said yesterday his party should not field candidates for the June local elections to help ensure a conservative victory.

Suh issued a statement, urging members to “promise to not nominate a candidate.” Since Suh is serving a prison term for election law violations, party officials took his statement during their visit to the Uijeongbu Prison on Tuesday and released it yesterday.

In his letter to party members, Suh also said he wanted to the Grand National Party to decide the fate of a merger between the two parties. Solidarity currently has eight lawmakers.

The predecessor of the minority conservative party is Pro-Park United, which was formed in the aftermath of the factional strife inside the GNP between pro-Lee Myung-bak and pro-Park Geun-hye groups. Dozens of prominent Grand Nationals who were allied with former GNP chairwoman Park left the party after they failed to win nominations for the April legislative elections in 2008. Most were elected either as independents or under the banner of a new political party, Pro-Park United. Many of the lawmakers later rejoined the GNP, allowing the giant ruling party to control more than half of the standing committees in the National Assembly.

“The foundation spirit of the Pro-Park United was ‘Return to the GNP alive,’” Suh said. “Since the time of its birth, the Pro-Park United was destined to exist temporarily. If we continue to stay outside and hinder the country’s development by creating a division among the conservatives, the people will turn away from us.”

While some in Solidarity, including senior member Rhee Q-taek, oppose Suh’s proposal, the GNP welcomed the development.

“We are not obsessed with the merger, but the opposition parties have talked about forming a coalition to field candidates jointly, so the conservatives must also unite for a greater chance of victory,” said GNP Secretary General Choung Byoung-gug. “Since Suh has made up his mind, negotiations for a merger will gain momentum.”

The Grand Nationals have been reluctant to merge with Solidarity because the party has demanded Suh’s amnesty as a precondition. Last year, the Supreme Court convicted Suh of receiving special donations from his party’s candidates in return for nominations. The court handed down an 18-month prison term. A bipartisan movement has developed inside the National Assembly recently and 254 lawmakers signed a petition seeking Suh’s amnesty. But Suh appears to have given up on the possibility. “I am left all alone. From now on, I alone will endure a lonely and tough time. I hope my sacrifice will lift pains and burdens of my comrades,” Suh said in his letter.

The Democratic Party was not impressed, calling the possible merger “a black market deal.”


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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