Fourth seat now vacant in April by-elections

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Fourth seat now vacant in April by-elections

A ruling party lawmaker for Incheon has lost his seat following a conviction on charges that he violated the country’s election law, bringing the total number of vacancies in April’s by-elections to four.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the chief accountant for Saenuri Party Rep. Ahn Duck-soo, who represented Ganghwa B in Incheon’s Seo District, violated the election law in 2012 by exceeding the maximum limit allowed on campaign spending.

The accountant was slapped with a six-month suspended prison term - a verdict that effectively nullifies Ahn’s election victory.

The new vacancy will be filled in the April 29 by-elections in addition to three seats that were previously occupied by the now-disbanded Unified Progressive Party (UPP).

The UPP lawmakers formerly represented Gwanak B in Seoul, Jungwon in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, and Seo B in Gwangju.

Former UPP lawmakers said they will run in the by-elections to win back their constituencies as independent candidates. Lee Sang-kyu will run in the Seoul by-election, while Kim Mi-hyui will run in Gyeonggi.

Oh Byung-yun, who represented Seogu B in Gwangju as a UPP lawmaker, however, said he will not run.

Additionally, the ruling Saenuri Party has almost finalized its candidates for the by-elections.

In Seoul, Oh Shin-hwan, the head of the party’s chapter for the district, is slated to campaign, while Shin Sang-jin, who represents Jungwon in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, will run for reelection. In Gwangju, Chung Seung, the minister of food and drug safety, has declared his bid. Chung recently stepped down from his post to participate in the poll.

The liberal main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy will hold an internal primary to decide its candidates for the by-elections. The primary result is based 50 percent on an opinion poll and 50 percent on delegate votes. The final decision will be announced Wednesday.

Representing Seoul’s Gwanak B, Kim Hee-chull, a former lawmaker who represented the district during the last term, and Jeong Tae-ho, who heads the party’s Gwanak district chapter, have declared that they will run in the primary. Four contenders, including Kim Chang-ho, who served as the head of the Government Information Agency under the Roh Moo-hyun government, have declared their bids for Jungwon in Seongnam, Gyeonggi.

In Gwangju’s Seo B district, three will run in the NPAD primary, though they will have to face a tough liberal rival there: Chun Jung-bae, a veteran of the main opposition party, left the NPAD earlier this month to run independently in Gwangju, refusing to compete in the internal primary. Chun is a former justice minister and four-time lawmaker, and the liberal votes in Gwangju Seo B district are expected to be split in the constituency, a traditional opposition stronghold.

The by-elections are also expected to serve as the first battle between Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung and NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in, both considered proper contenders for the next presidential election.

Because three of the four vacancies were initially held by progressive lawmakers, the conservative ruling Saenrui Party admitted that it would be a tough fight for its candidates.

For Moon, the by-elections will also be challenging. Liberal votes are expected to be split between the NPAD candidates and the former UPP lawmakers. Independent liberal candidates are also expected to further split the votes. 

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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