Saenuri makes tentative decision on selecting new floor leader

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Saenuri makes tentative decision on selecting new floor leader

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Leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party convene a Supreme Council meeting on Thursday in the office of Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung, second from left, at the National Assembly. [NEWSIS]

The ruling party will determine its new floor leader on Tuesday, a vacancy Saenuri leaders have decided to fill without holding an election.

Rep. Yoo Seong-min, elected by party lawmakers in February as its floor leader, stepped down on Wednesday after President Park Geun-hye demanded that he resign.

Ruling party lawmakers met earlier the same day and recommended Yoo step down. The former floor leader had previously said he would respect the outcome either way.

According to the Saenuri Party constitution, a new floor leader must be elected within seven days; the party has until Wednesday to complete the process. Earlier Thursday morning, the Supreme Council, made up of party leaders, met and agreed that a new floor leader should be appointed through a consensus rather than an election.

They also reportedly agreed that holding a vote would further damage party unity, as Park loyalists in the Saenuri and other party members were already split regarding Yoo’s fate.

“It’s not a final decision, but we generally agreed that the new floor leader should be appointed based on a consensus,” said Rep. Suh Chung-won, a Supreme Council member and a Park loyalist. “I think that’s what the leadership wants.”

Another member of the Supreme Council, Rep. Kim Tae-ho, said that finding a new floor leader through a consensus was a likely possibility for the sake of party unity.

Kim, who strongly demanded Yoo’s resignation, predicted that a lawmaker from the capital region would be selected, considering his or her negotiation skills, future harmony between the Blue House and the party and next year’s general elections.

Saenuri chairman Kim Moo-sung confirmed that a discussion had taken place at the Supreme Council, but that a decision had not been finalized.

Later in the morning, the ruling party formed an election commission to select a new floor leader and chief policy maker in accordance with internal regulations, and scheduled a general assembly of lawmakers for Tuesday.

Rep. Suh Sang-kee, election commission head, said the Supreme Council’s discussion was merely opinion.

“If there are people who really want to become the floor leader, we have no other option [but to hold an election].”

“Any qualified lawmaker can run,” he said. “So, we need to be prepared. According to the regulations, candidate registrations will take place two days before Tuesday’s meeting. We should go for appointing a new floor leader based on a consensus, but also be prepared for an election just in case that doesn’t go well.”

Rep. Shim Jae-chul, a four-term lawmaker representing Anyang, Gyeonggi, has already made public his intention to run. And speculation has also grown that Rep. Won Yoo-chul, who was elected chief policy maker in February as Yoo’s running mate, will be made floor leader.

Won is known for being neutral in the face of party factionalism.

Rep. Joo Ho-young, a former chief policy maker, or Rep. Lee Ju-young, who Yoo defeated in the February election, are also considered potential contenders. It is also likely that President Park will soon appoint a senior secretary for political affairs, a post that has been vacant for 53 days since Cho Yoon-sun stepped down to take responsibility for a delay in the legislature’s passing of a long-waited reform plan for the debt-stricken pension program for civil servants.

Cho was appointed to the post in June 2014, but resigned after 11 months when she failed to persuade the ruling and opposition parties to approve the program. The pension reform plan was approved on May 29, only after Yoo brokered a deal with the opposition to pass a revision to the National Assembly Act.

Park vetoed the bill on June 25, however, and attacked Yoo for having negotiated the deal to meet his own political ends, which subsequently led to his resignation on Wednesday.

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

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