DP, Ahn’s faction hold first joint meeting

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DP, Ahn’s faction hold first joint meeting

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Leaders of the Democratic Party and Ahn Cheol-soo political faction have a joint meeting yesterday at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, to discuss ways to create a new merged party. [NEWSIS]

Democratic Party leaders and the political faction led by independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo held their first joint meeting yesterday at the National Assembly, pledging to realize “new politics” through the creation of a new united party, which DP Chairman Kim Han-gill described as “paving an uncharted path.”

Signs of a rift emerged later in the day, however, when the two sides discussed ways in which the party should be created, fueling speculation that they have already hit a bumpy road in realizing their promise.

During the meeting yesterday, DP Chairman Kim, sitting next to Ahn, said there would be no power struggle within the envisioned party.

“We will not wage a tug-of-war [with Ahn’s faction] over nominations [for the June local elections]. Nominations will be given to candidates with the most potential to win in the election regardless of one’s affiliation [with the DP or Ahn’s group],” he said, noting that such nominations will “realize the first phase of Ahn’s new politics.”

Ahn apparently made a remark that could have been interpreted as demanding the DP give up more of its vested rights in order to smoothly transition into a new party.

“More than often, the promise for sweeping reform has only been said, not done…. We should not repeat the same mistake of having a political unity that is unfulfilled. We need to get rid of more vested rights.”

Less than a few hours later, signs of discord between the two groups began to surface when an official from Ahn’s camp suggested that a meeting to discuss the specifics of the party’s creation, scheduled for later in the day between the two groups, could be called off, adding that DP officials were feeding unconfirmed facts to the media.

The primary dispute centers on the way the new party will be formed, and particularly on whether it will be the result of a party-to-party merger, an idea advocated by the major opposition party, or a totally different entity that would come about through the dissolution of the Democratic Party, a proposal floated by Ahn’s camp.

“We are not even a party yet. That being said, can such a discussion [over a party-to-party merger] take place?” Ahn said yesterday at Gimhae International Airport in Busan on his way to a conference there aimed at shoring up support for the new party.

It has already been speculated that the Democrats will have more influence than Ahn’s faction in the new party, as it commands 126 lawmakers and is the second-largest political party following the Saenuri, while Ahn’s is just a one-man force leading a political faction and does not have organizational power.

“The DP wants to create a new party in the manner of a party-to-party merger because it’s easier for it to keep its existing organizational strength derived from its regional chapters,” Yoon Hee-sang, director of the public research team at Min Consulting, a political consulting group, told the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“That way, the DP could minimize its internal resistance to the new party.”

Meanwhile, high-profile Saenuri figures, alarmed by the potential popularity of the united party less than three months before the polls, declared bids yesterday for local government offices.

Five-term lawmaker Nam Kyung-pil declared his bid to run in the Gyeonggi gubernatorial race, a post that has been held by Saenuri Governor Kim Moon-soo for two consecutive terms.

Public Administration Minister Yoo Jeong-bok also made an official bid yesterday to challenge incumbent Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil of the Democratic Party. Yoo tendered his resignation to the presidential office yesterday in order to run in the mayoral race.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, HA SUN-YOUNG [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]


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