As UPP crumbles, reps’ fate unclear

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As UPP crumbles, reps’ fate unclear

With indicators that dissolution of the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party is imminent, eyes are now on the fate of the 13 proportional representatives of the party.

Will they lose their posts if they defect, and who will fill their spots?

“Under the Public Official Election Act, a proportional lawmaker automatically loses his or her seat if he or she voluntarily defects from the party and creates a new caucus,” Son Seung-yeon, an official at the National Election Commission, told the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“In that case, another remaining member in the party fills the post.

“However, if all party members agree to legally dissolve the party, proportional representatives can maintain their parliamentary posts as independents or with another party.”

As of 1 p.m. on Monday, the UPP experienced an unprecedented exodus.

Approximately 3,000 party members left the party or declared that they won’t pay membership fees for the party anymore, frustrated by the botched vote to expel the two controversial lawmakers, Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon, who are refusing to forfeit their positions won in an allegedly rigged primary in March.

Currently, the nation’s third largest party consists of three main factions: former members of the Democratic Labor Party, who were pro-Pyongyang student activists during the 1970s and ’80s; former members of the People’s Participation Party and the New Progressive Party, who were also student activists but not pro-North; and members of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, the country’s largest left-leaning labor union association.

Among those factions, the former PPP members are the most eager to leave the party.

On Sunday, about 200 former PPP members had a meeting in Daejeon and officially concluded that the UPP “has failed and needs a new way to reform itself.”

The former DLP members, who are the party’s largest faction, are backing Lee and Kim and saying that the March primary wasn’t rigged. Members outside the largest faction believe the primary was manipulated.

Among the 13 proportional lawmakers of the party, six of them belong to the pro-North largest faction; five are from smaller factions; two are centrists.

Currently, the five lawmakers want to defect, but they face a dilemma. If they leave the party along with other faction members, they will lose their post and the other UPP members will move into their posts by the rankings given in the allegedly rigged primary.

They can keep their posts if the party dissolves.

But dissolving a party isn’t easy.

It needs a vote in which a majority of party members cast ballots and two-thirds vote in favor of it.

To split or not is a burden to most members of the UPP, regardless of which faction they belong to, because they have experienced similar clashes.

In fact, the former NPP members used to be part of the DLP, but there was also factional infighting over differing political ideology with the hard-line pro-Pyongyang members, especially in dealing with the U.S. and North Korean affairs.

In 2008, they defected from the DLP and created the NPP.

In this sense, they are more cautious about leaving the party, because it could negatively impact their faction’s image.


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

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