Ahn makes pledges to liberal base in Mokpo

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Ahn makes pledges to liberal base in Mokpo

First-term independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo paid a symbolic visit yesterday to Mokpo, South Jeolla, a long-time stronghold of the major opposition party, where he announced a set of pledges intended to revitalize grass-roots politics.

“Former President Kim Dae-jung pledged to realize local autonomy in the 1971 presidential election. In 1990, he even went on a hunger strike demanding for it, putting his life at risk,” the former presidential hopeful said during a conference at a hotel there.

The city is known for having thrown strong support behind late President Kim, a revered political figure in the country’s liberal base.

“Mokpo is a city that symbolizes [the political career] of former President Kim. And I am here to announce to the people for the first time a set of measures to improve local autonomy,” he said.

Ahn’s visit came at a time of heightened tensions between his political group and the Democratic Party, with local elections less than five months away. His visit was interpreted by some political watchers as an attempt to appeal to voters who have long been loyal to the opposition.

During the conference, Ahn’s political group, informally called the New Politics Promotion Committee, announced a set of pledges for the upcoming local elections on June 4.

Under the pledges, Ahn’s group said that it will not field candidates for a local by-election in the future or in an instance where such an election must take place as a result of an indiscretion by an elected official from his party.

The committee also promised that it will not waste taxpayer money by building extravagant local government offices.

The maverick lawmaker’s visit to the DP’s stronghold came amid reports that he is considering running in the Seoul mayoral race in June, challenging Democratic incumbent Mayor Park Won-soon of the DP, whom Ahn was instrumental in getting elected two years ago.

Though Ahn and his aides denied the rumors, the reports have highlighted ongoing tensions between Ahn and the Democrats.

The former presidential hopeful is expected to get in full gear for the elections with the creation of his own party by the end of March with an aim to field candidates for all 17 of the major metropolitan polls, including Seoul.

The outcome of the local elections will likely determine the fate of Ahn’s envisioned party, as well as serve as a barometer of public opinion with respect to the approval ratings for the Park Geun-hye government.

Meanwhile, Ahn and Kim Han-gill, the Democratic Party chairman, are scheduled to meet today for a luncheon.

They are expected to discuss how they can present a united front against the Saenuri Party in the local elections, as well as how Ahn’s new party and the DP can work together to avoid splitting the liberal base.

BY CHON KWON-PIL, KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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