Lawmaker leaves GNP after party rejects dissolving

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Lawmaker leaves GNP after party rejects dissolving

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Jeong Tae-keun / Kim Sung-sik

Representative Jeong Tae-keun, a reformist Grand National Party lawmaker, announced yesterday that he would leave the party, potentially opening the floodgates for mass defections after demands by reformist GNP lawmakers to dismantle and create a new center-right party were rejected at a GNP meeting.

“The Grand National Party appears to be satisfied with the current political structure rather than giving up its vested interests,” Jeong said at a press conference. “I decided to leave the party because I don’t think it is right to maintain a wrong political structure.”

Jeong is the first lawmaker to defect from the ruling party since President Lee Myung-bak took office.

The lawmaker’s decision to bolt the ruling party could, in particular, nudge Seoul-based GNP lawmakers to leave the party, which has been watching an emboldened liberal front with increasing trepidation since the GNP’s big defeat in October’s Seoul mayoral by-election.

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Another reformist GNP lawmaker, Representative Kim Sung-sik, hinted yesterday that he would defect unless the party’s emergency leadership is commissioned to dismantle the GNP and create a new party.

A key reformist GNP lawmaker, Representative Chung Doo-un, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency that more defections were likely. “There are many lawmakers who think they cannot stay in the party unless the party is recreated,” he said.

Jeong’s decision to leave the GNP came after the party held a second day of intense internal discussions over the fate of the tattered ruling party, with senior and centrist lawmakers fiercely rejecting reformists’ demands.

GNP lawmakers had agreed at Monday’s party caucus that an emergency leadership would be created under Representative Park Geun-hye, the former chairwoman, to salvage the sinking party.

Yesterday’s follow-up meeting was meant to discuss the direction of the reform, but lawmakers remained on opposite sides. Senior lawmakers close to Park criticized the demands made by reformist lawmakers for the presidential candidate to create a new party.

“Park has built this party with her own hands, and it is nonsense to ask her to kick out President Lee Myung-bak from the party and break it up,” a Park loyalist was quoted as saying by party sources.


By Ser Myo-ja, Kim Jung-ha [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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