Fallout from polls hits conservatives

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Fallout from polls hits conservatives

Following the landslide victory by liberal opposition parties in last week’s local elections, Lee Hoi-chang, head of the conservative Liberty Forward Party, quit his post and urged the nation’s conservatives to unite.

“I feel responsible for the election defeat,” Lee was quoted as saying at an LFP lawmakers’ meeting by the party’s spokeswoman Park Sun-young.

The Liberty Forward Party, which has 16 lawmakers, suffered defeats in its stronghold of South and North Chungcheong provinces to the liberal Democrats on Wednesday. The LFP’s Yum Hong-chul still managed to win the Daejeon mayor post.

According to party officials, LFP lawmakers were trying to talk Lee out of resigning, because the party needs him to prepare for the July 28 by-elections.

Before announcing his resignation, Lee urged the conservatives to unite. “It is not the time for the conservatives to be guided by self-interest,” Lee said in an interview with KBS yesterday. “For the sake of advanced politics and politics for the people, the conservatives must think about a grand alliance,” he said.

While Lee was urging the conservatives to unite, a rift emerged between the Blue House and the ruling Grand National Party as they blamed each other for the local election debacle.

Young, reformist lawmakers of the GNP are demanding reshuffles of the Blue House secretariat and the cabinet to win public approval back. A senior Blue House official said Sunday that there will be no Blue House and cabinet reshuffles before the July 28 by-elections.

“It is President Lee Myung-bak’s philosophy that there won’t be a reshuffle simply for the sake of change,” the official said. “It is likely that an overhaul of the Blue House secretariat will come after the by-elections.”

The president also has no plan to reshuffle his cabinet because of the election defeat, the official said. “Even if the cabinet is reshuffled [after the by-elections], the scale will be minimal,” he said.

An assessment of the election loss was the key topic at a senior secretaries’ meeting hosted by the president yesterday, according to sources. A participant said failed reforms, such as reform of state-run companies and improvement of labor-employer relations, prompted former supporters of the Lee government to turn away, the sources said.

Another participant reportedly blamed the GNP for the defeat, saying it failed to nominate good candidates.

The arguments, however, were not even convincing to some presidential aides.

“It is simply too lame to try to find the cause of the defeat in the failed state-run company and labor union reforms when the shortcomings were obviously in the government and the Blue House,” said a presidential aide.

“It is also embarrassing to pass the buck to the ruling party,” he said.

According to participants, a solemn-faced President Lee remained tight-lipped during the discussion.

By Ser Myo-ja, Seo Seung-wook [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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