After flip-flop, party to merge with GNP

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After flip-flop, party to merge with GNP

Internal strife inside the conservative minority party Solidarity for Future and Hope lasted only a day, as party officials yesterday scrapped a plan to merge with another conservative minority party and, instead, leaned toward merging with the ruling Grand National Party.

“Since the party will decide on the proposed merger with the Grand National Party during the general convention next Friday, having further negotiations on a merger with Representative Sim Dae-pyung’s party is no longer meaningful,” Rhee Q-taek, co-head of Solidarity, was quoted as saying yesterday by party spokesman Jeon Ji-myeong. After a leadership meeting, Jeon said the convention is to select new leadership and endorse the proposed merger.

“Rhee’s earlier declaration of a merger with Sim’s party was his personal opinion, not the official position of the party,” Jeon said. “We apologize for creating confusion.”

Earlier this week, Suh Chung-won, the former GNP chairman who currently co-heads Solidarity with Rhee, proposed an unconditional merger with the ruling party, saying that the party was always intended to only exist temporarily. Suh said his party should not field candidates for the upcoming local elections to ensure a conservative victory. In response, Rhee announced Thursday that the party would complete a coalition with Sim’s party, arguing that not everyone in Solidarity agreed with Suh’s position. Rhee, however, has now retracted his argument.

More promising signs of Solidarity members’ return to the GNP were shown yesterday as a spokeswoman of the GNP’s nomination committee unveiled a plan to give a fair opportunity to those who have prepared for the elections as Solidarity candidates.

According to Bae Eun-hee, the GNP nomination committee is reviewing a plan to extend the application period to run in unpopular districts. The GNP has closed the applications for local election candidates, and no ruling party candidate tried to run for mayor of South Chungcheong in the aftermath of the Sejong City controversy. The official merger between the two conservative parties will be completed after the June local elections, when the GNP holds its party convention in early July. The process requires confirmation by both parties through general conventions.

The dynamics of power and control between pro-Lee Myung-bak and pro-Park Geun-hye factions inside the GNP is also expected to be influenced if the merger takes place.

The predecessor of Solidarity is the Pro-Park United, which was formed in the aftermath of factional strife between pro-Lee and pro-Park 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 2008 April legislative elections.

Most were elected either as independents or under the banner of the Pro-Park United and many later rejoined the GNP. Solidarity currently has eight proportional representatives while the GNP has 169. The merger would increase the number of GNP lawmakers to 177. The merger is also expected to increase the standing of Park inside the GNP because lawmakers loyal to her will number about 60.

By Ser Myo-ja []
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