Wider rift with Ahn on his own

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Wider rift with Ahn on his own

The internal rift in the main opposition grew wider Monday as its chairman questioned the integrity of his rival, Ahn Cheol-soo, for demanding a party convention to elect a new leader.

“Talking about reform, while having rejected a reform platform prepared by the party’s reform committee will only raise questions about our integrity,” Moon Jae-in, the chairman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), said during a Supreme Council meeting.

Although he did not mention Ahn by name, his remarks appeared to be directed at the lawmaker, who opposed the reform plan drafted with Moon’s support and adopted earlier this year as the party’s official rules.

As the NPAD struggles to revamp its plummeting popularity, the embattled chairman proposed earlier this month to his two rivals, Rep. Ahn and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, to form an alliance. The three men are considered to have presidential ambitions.

Park agreed with Moon’s plan for a three-man partnership to lead the party toward the April general election, but Ahn rejected the proposal Sunday. Instead, he demanded that a party convention be held in January to elect a new party leader ahead of the polls.

Moon said he would consult with fellow party members about Ahn’s demand but that the reform platforms he initiated must be carried out at all costs.

Members of the Supreme Council also remain split between Moon and Ahn’s proposals.

“If we cannot avoid conflict, then we have to resolve this problem by tackling it directly,” Rep. Joo Seung-yong said in support of Ahn’s plan. “We have to explore a new path [for the NPAD] based on the will of the people and party members.”

After the meeting, Joo also told reporters that talking about reform while the party was struggling with an internal crisis was meaningless. “Arguing that a party convention will maximize internal rifts is to ignore the party and the people,” he said.

Another Supreme Council member, Rep. Jun Byung-hun, said Ahn’s proposal for a party convention was worrisome because the opposition would be seriously ruptured during the process.

Rep. Choo Mi-ae was likewise critical of Ahn’s plan. “We must stop this type of ‘live or die’ politics,” Choo said. “A party convention must unite the party with a new vision and hope.”

After Moon’s proposal for a three-way alliance with Ahn and Park faced a dead end, some senior NPAD members began floating a completely new alternative.

“Moon and Ahn both need to give up their established rights and sacrifice themselves to allow the NPAD to have a new leader with a new image,” said Rep. Oh Young-sick.

Oh stepped down from the Supreme Council last week to protest Moon’s decision to propose an alliance without consulting the Supreme Council first.

In an interview with CBS radio, Oh said the party should hold a convention to elect a new party leader in a race that did not include Moon or Ahn.

“We need a shift in our thinking that the party has no future without them,” he said. “They must surrender all their power, including their influence over nominations, and work for the NPAD to bring it a victory in the legislative elections.”

As the power struggle between Moon and Ahn deepened, Rep. Chun Jung-bae, an independent lawmaker who walked away from the NPAD earlier this year to form his own political party, proposed that Ahn join his camp.

“I expect those who long for reform, including Ahn, to join my initiative to create a new party,” Chun said Monday.

He also went on to praise Ahn for turning down Moon’s proposal. “He went a step forward by rejecting a conspiracy to divide the stakes among three men,” he said.

The NPAD has already attempted several political experiments - all of which have failed - he said, urging Ahn to join his initiative.

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

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