DUP regroups, set to elect new leader

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DUP regroups, set to elect new leader

The largest opposition party scheduled an election tomorrow to select a new floor leader to pull the party together in the aftermath of its defeat in the presidential election.

The Democratic United Party decided yesterday that the election will take place tomorrow morning at the National Assembly. The party said candidate registrations will be received by 5 p.m. today.

The new floor leader will succeed Representative Park Jie-won, who stepped down from the post Friday in the aftermath of the DUP’s defeat in the Dec. 19 presidential election.

The new floor leader’s tenure will last until early May next year and he or she will also double as the emergency leadership head until the party elects a new chairman.

As of now, Representatives Park Ki-choon and Jun Byung-hun have expressed their bids, but more candidates may register for the position today.

While the DUP struggled to minimize the leadership vacuum, a split grew deeper inside the largest opposition party as political heavyweights were criticized for the defeat. Representative Kim Young-hwan said yesterday that those responsible for the defeat must step aside.

“It was undeniable that the DUP’s presidential campaign was marred by the collusion between Lee Hae-chan and Park Jie-won,” Kim said in an interview on KBS radio yesterday morning, bringing up the months-old dispute.

In April, leaders of the two largest factions inside the DUP reached a deal on splitting leadership positions.

Lee of the Roh Moo-hyun faction became chairman while Park of the Kim Dae-jung faction became the floor leader and they agreed to support Moon Jae-in, a key Roh loyalist, as presidential candidate.

The arrangement, however, was criticized fiercely by the politicians who were not members of the two mainstream factions.

“They were in charge of the presidential campaign, and Moon was also responsible since he was the candidate,” Kim, a four-term lawmaker, said. “And other people from the civic groups who played dominant roles during the campaign must step back from the key leadership positions from the party now.”

“If they try to mastermind the leadership creation once again or use their influence, since they have many lawmakers in their factions,” Kim said, “it is hard to reform our party.”

He also urged Moon to stay back from the frontline of politics and criticized him for having kept his lawmaker position.

“He should have resigned from the lawmaker post before the presidential election,” Kim said. “It will be awkward for him to come back as a lawmaker, but it’s his decision.”

Roh loyalists, however, refused the idea that they were responsible for the presidential defeat. In an interview with PBC radio yesterday morning, Representative Jeon Hae-cheol, a Roh loyalist, said everyone in the DUP must share the burden of the overhaul.

“It is unclear who the Roh loyalists are,” Jeon said. “Even if someone is labeled pro-Roh, what will be his or her responsibility? The labeling is not a role, so it is ambiguous to hold someone responsible for it.”

“There are many reasons for the defeat, and it is wrong to hold only a few people accountable for the failure,” he said.

Jeon stepped down from the Moon campaign in late October, along with other Roh loyalists, to prove the Roh faction’s determination for new politics.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr ]

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