Ahn’s party to field candidates for major polls

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Ahn’s party to field candidates for major polls

Independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo declared yesterday that he would form his own political party and field candidates for June’s local elections no later than the end of March.

Ahn also promised that his party would bring about “new politics” worthy of public trust.

“Demands for change [in politics] are overwhelming, but the existing political parties are repeating the same mistakes from the past,” the first-term lawmaker said in front of reporters yesterday during a visit to Jeju Island. “The political party we are going to form will replace bad, deeply rooted practices in the political arena. We will bring about major changes in the political landscape.”

With that declaration, Ahn’s political committee made it clear that it will field candidates for all 17 of the major municipal elections, including Seoul’s mayoral election.

“As I have said a few times before, we will have our candidates running for 17 metropolitan offices,” said Yoon Yeo-joon, a well-known political strategist and a member of Ahn’s political group, the so-called New Politics Promotion Committee, during the press briefing.

With Ahn declaring his own party, a rivalry between his political force and that of the major opposition Democratic Party is expected to intensify in the run-up to the election. Specifically, political watchers will be eyeing how the two groups resolve the issue of deciding upon a single candidate to compete with the candidate from the ruling Saenuri Party.

Putting pressure on the independent lawmaker, floor leader of the DP Jun Byung-hyun said in a meeting yesterday that unifying the opposition’s candidacy to face off against the Saenuri in the June elections is not a choice but a necessity.

Of particular interest is whether Ahn’s envisioned party and the DP will come to an agreement regarding the Seoul mayoral election. On Monday, Ahn said it was his turn to receive concessions from the DP because he had already made two sacrifices for the party.

The remark was interpreted as his demand for incumbent Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon to forgo his re-election bid in the local elections.

The two concessions Ahn was referring to include the yielding of his mayoral candidacy to Park in a 2011 by-election despite his overwhelming approval ratings, as well as giving up his candidacy to Moon Jae-in, of the Democratic Party, to unify the opposition block in the run-up to Korea’s presidential race.

“Isn’t it my turn to receive concessions? The people will judge based on the ethics of politics,” Ahn said on Monday.

In response to Ahn’s comments, Mayor Park said on Monday, in rather vague language, that he will bow out of the race only if doing so would benefit the public.

“Ahn and I have known each other for more than 10 years. And I think our relationship is not based on calculations of [political] interest,” he said yesterday in a KBS radio interview. “I think that sense of trust [between us is] still intact.”

Meanwhile, the ruling party welcomed Ahn’s announcement, saying it hopes the new political party will become a viable alternative force in bringing about positive change in the political sphere.

However, it kept its guard up in regard to the potential collaboration between Ahn’s new party and the DP.

“It would be a blunt denial of Ahn’s promise of ‘new politics’ if his party and the DP ran unified candidates,” Representative Yoo Il-ho, spokesman for the Saenuri, said before reporters at the National Assembly.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr ]

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