GNP’s factions play blame game over election loss

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GNP’s factions play blame game over election loss

In the aftermath of a stinging election defeat, the two main factions of the ruling Grand National Party have begun duking it out over who was responsible, and how the political debacle will affect the controversial development agenda of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

The four major rivers restoration program and a revised development blueprint for Sejong City in South Chungcheong were Lee’s flagship projects, but opposition parties fiercely protested both of them. Park Geun-hye of the Grand National Party, a political rival of Lee, and her loyalists also oppose the Sejong revision.

Lee had scaled back a plan of former President Roh Moo-hyun to make Sejong a new administrative capital for South Korea.

The GNP’s defeat in the Chungcheong region was due to Lee’s Sejong City revision, pro-Park lawmakers said yesterday, attacking the pro-Lee faction of the party which promoted the president’s vision.

“We have to use all possible means to ease the people’s anger,” said Representative Gu Sang-chan, a Park loyalist. “We have to replace all presidential aides and stop all the projects that were opposed by the public.”

Gu also demanded the cabinet and the prime minister to step down to take responsibility.

Representative Lee Han-koo also said yesterday that it is urgent for the GNP to stop insisting on the revision of the Sejong City plan. “It is better for the issue to be openly and freely discussed at the National Assembly,” he said.

He also said the party should approach the four major rivers project more carefully. Despite the election defeat, the Blue House has said it will push forward that massive, national development program because construction work was already ongoing. The bill to revise the Sejong City program has been stuck in the legislature since March.

“Public sentiment opposing the project became so severe that a Buddhist monk set himself on fire in protest,” Lee said. “Taking their concerns into consideration, we need to think carefully about how to proceed with this project.”

Pro-Lee lawmakers, however, refuse to link the two projects with the election defeat. “The problem was more about the high-handed attitude of pushing the projects, not the projects themselves,” said Representative Chun Yu-ok.

Representative Chung Doo-un, who headed the GNP local election campaign, said Sejong City is a separate issue from the local elections because the government has decided to revise the plan for the nation’s future. He said the National Assembly must make a decision as soon as possible to end the confusion.

“The four rivers project has progressed significantly, and it must not be hindered by the local elections outcome,” Chung also said.

Amid growing factional strife, Kim Moo-sung, newly elected GNP floor leader, who will head the party’s emergency committee in the absence of a leader, refused to reveal his position. “It is not the time to discuss the issues,” he said.

The GNP’s chairman and other members of its Supreme Council stepped down after the election defeats, and the emergency committee will formally be launched next week to prepare for a party convention to elect a new leadership.

This is the first time in seven years that the GNP will be managed by an emergency committee, indicating the seriousness of the latest election defeat. The convention will likely take place in early July.

The GNP is now also busy preparing for July 28 legislative by-elections. Eight lawmakers will be elected from Seoul, Incheon, Gwangju, Gangwon and South and North Chungcheong provinces.


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

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