UPP makes major changes in wake of primary rigging

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UPP makes major changes in wake of primary rigging

After being accused of rigging a past proportional primary, the Unified Progressive Party replaced the company that managed the ballot counting.

The UPP, which earned 13 parliamentary seats in the April 11 legislative election and became the No. 3 political party, has come under fire that proportional primary held in March was not monitored and was allegedly rigged by some party members.

Lee Cheong-ho, a UPP member, said that the company that managed the ballot counting has been in a close relationship with the Democratic Labor Party, which was absorbed by the UPP. He also said the company allegedly opened the ballot counting three times in the middle of the election to some party members, in order to have some unpopular candidates win the primary.

The UPP leadership held a meeting yesterday and told members that they determined to fire the company. They have launched a probe into the rigging scandal and the result will be publicized next week.

However, the party leadership said they won’t ask prosecutors to launch a probe into the case and they will handle it on their own.

“The media urged us to call for a probe by prosecutors, but we will solve the problem because this is an internal matter,” Jo Jun-ho, a UPP party member, told reporters on Monday. “And then we will announce the result to the media.”

As part of its efforts to realign the new party, the leadership has set up a string of party rules. They have also determined to change the party’s name to “Progressive Party.”

Still, the new rules are mostly inherited from those of the Democratic Labor Party, a far-left, anti-U.S. caucus absorbed into the UPP, such as: pulling back U.S. forces from Korea; scrapping the Korea-U.S. alliance which they think is unfair; cutting defense spending; a halt on privatizing state-run key industries; dissolving the chaebol-centric economic system; implementing the minimum wage system; and increasing the number of female lawmakers.

The party will determine the final version of its internal rules at the May 12 party convention and elect the chairman and supreme council members on June 3.

However, the UPP is still struggling with internal strife among members. The party consists of members with three different political ideologies: some from the so-called National Liberalization (NL), a pro-North Korea group that saw its heyday during the democratization movement in the 1980s; former members of the People’s Participation Party; and people from the so-called People’s Democracy (PD), who are labor activists but critical of the North Korean regime.

After North Korea launched a long-range rocket, the party’s spokesman, Wu Wi-yeong, a NL member, released a brief statement saying, “The sanction implementation of the UN Security Council and the United States doesn’t help ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula at all,” without mentioning any criticism of North Korea.

Many non-NL members say that the former NL group members, who allegedly control the party behind the scenes, should be more critical of North Korea’s failed rocket launch as a disguised missile technology test.

By Kim Jung-wook, Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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