[Viewpoint] Will the UPP candidates stack up?

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[Viewpoint] Will the UPP candidates stack up?

The Unified Progressive Party, jointly chaired by Rhyu Si-min, Lee Jung-hee and Sim Sang-jeong, declared that its plan to form a liberal alliance with the Democratic United Party has broken down, arguing that the largest opposition party is not enthusiastic about it. The UPP then said it will field 180 candidates in the April 11 legislative elections and win more than 20 seats to become a separate negotiating bloc inside the National Assembly.

During the negotiation, the UPP demanded that it wants 10 constituencies in the capital region and 10 constituencies in Jeolla, Daejeon, Chungcheong and Gangwon. The so-called “10 plus 10” plan demands that the DUP not field candidates in those 20 locales.

The DUP countered the demand with the “four plus one” plan. It said it is willing to give the candidacy of Seoul’s Gwanak B District to UPP Co-chairwoman Lee; Eunpyeong B District to UPP spokesman Cheon Ho-seon; Nowon C District to another spokesman, Roh Hoe-chan; and Goyang-Deokyang A District in Gyeonggi to Co-chairwoman Sim. The DUP said it will also give up a candidacy to the UPP outside of Seoul by yielding Yesan-Hongseong of South Chungcheong. The UPP walked out of the negotiation, saying it felt insulted by the largest opposition party.

The DUP’s proposal hurt the UPP’s ego because it said it has no intention of conceding any other districts in the capital region except to the four leaders of the UPP. Because the Yesan-Hongseong District is a stronghold for the ruling Saenuri Party, the UPP has no chance of fielding a candidate there.

Liberal candidates, if the alliance is formed, have extremely strong chances of victories in Jeolla, but the DUP said it won’t accept any of the UPP’s requests to field candidates in the region. With the UPP plan to easily secure at least six seats through the thwarted alliance, it is no wonder the party felt betrayed.

The DUP has shown a high-handed attitude in the negotiation. About two weeks ago, the UPP proposed that the two parties’ chairwomen - Han Myeong-sook and Lee Jung-hee - meet to solidify their commitment to form the liberal alliance, but the DUP turned it down. The DUP apparently did not want to make an unnecessary promise in that meeting, and it also felt that Han and Lee are in different leagues.

When the New Progressive Party, an even smaller opposition party, said it wanted to join the negotiation for the liberal alliance, the DUP pushed the matter to the UPP as if it were a problem that they had to resolve.

The DUP has become arrogant because it is confident it can win a victory in the legislative elections alone, based on skyrocketing support fueled by anti-Lee Myung-bak sentiment. Members selfishly believe they may have more to lose than gain through the liberal alliance.

It is undeniable that the DUP is acting greedy and narrow-minded. But the UPP’s complaints are also unpleasant. What will voters feel when they see the list of candidates that the UPP wants to nominate? Will the voters think the DUP should have accepted the “10 plus 10” plan to give 20 nominations, or is the UPP acting recklessly with a poor list?

Representative Kim Sun-dong of the UPP, who detonated a tear gas canister inside the National Assembly’s main chamber in protest of the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, was elected based on the liberal alliance in the April by-election last year to represent Suncheon, South Jeolla. Although the largest opposition party had a pool of good candidates, it did not field a candidate in the district, and Kim was able to win.

Kim once again demanded the DUP concede, but voters in Suncheon reportedly criticized him for acting shamelessly after having ruined the reputation of the city.

Representative Kang Ki-kap, who was convicted by the Supreme Court for his repeated violence in the National Assembly, including an assault against a security guard, is also seeking a bid to represent Sacheon, Namhae and Hadong, South Gyeongsang. Perhaps reform is a word that does not exist in the dictionary of the UPP.

After the negotiation broke down, the UPP moved on to threats. It now warns the DUP that the largest opposition party will lose about 60 seats in the capital region alone if its candidates join the race and split the liberal votes. The negotiation may resume because of the threat, and the UPP could probably win a significant concession. But even if the UPP managed to field candidates in a significant number of districts, will they be able to win? Will the UPP be able to attract votes with its candidates?

Roh, a UPP spokesman, said it is wrong for the DUP to argue that the UPP candidates are not competitive enough even if the DUP concedes. But the DUP’s assessment could be right. If Kim and Kang sought election in the capital region, how many voters would support them?

by Lee Sang-il

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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