Hot seat for NPAD boss Moon only gets hotter

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Hot seat for NPAD boss Moon only gets hotter

Chairman Moon Jae-in of the main opposition party faced mounting pressure to step down Wednesday as his key rival hinted he’d abandon the party.

“Unless Moon steps down by the end of this week, Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo will make a decision next week,” said Rep. Moon Byung-ho of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), Ahn’s former chief of staff.

“This week is the crucial point,” he continued. “If Moon resigns, discussions by NPAD members to abandon the party or to create new parties will fade. But if Moon rejects the demands of moderate lawmakers representing the capital region and insists on his way, Ahn will make a decision.”

Moon and Ahn co-founded the NPAD with Kim Han-gill in March 2014 by merging the main opposition Democratic Party and Ahn’s supporters.

Moon and Ahn were rival candidates in the 2012 presidential elections. In a bid to unite liberal votes, the two negotiated a candidacy consolidation, but Ahn bitterly withdrew from the race after being continually outmaneuvered by Moon. Moon was narrowly defeated by Park Geun-hye.

Ahn and Kim co-chaired the NPAD from March 2014 to July 2014. After the NPAD’s crushing defeat in July 30, 2014 by-elections, they resigned, and the NPAD was led by two interim leaders. Moon was elected chairman by a party convention in February.

Moon proposed a series of reforms to improve the NPAD’s plummeting popularity, but rivals resisted them and claimed they were meant to cement his control over the party.

Ahn, a software-mogul-turned-politician, recently demanded a party convention be held to elect a new leader. He issued an ultimatum to Moon on Sunday and headed to his hometown of Busan. Moon rejected the demand Tuesday.

“If Ahn leaves the NPAD, seven to 10 lawmakers will abandon the party to join him,” Rep. Moon, a key Ahn associate, said. “It won’t be hard for Ahn to recruit 20 or 30 more liberal lawmakers to form a new negotiation bloc inside the National Assembly.”

“We need to have a blueprint to form a new negotiation group or a new political party by the year’s end,” he said. “That’s why Ahn will make a decision next week.”

He said many lawmakers representing the Jeolla provinces and Gwangju are expected to join.

Rep. Yoo Sung-yop, head of the NPAD’s North Jeolla chapter, and Rep. Hwang Ju-hong, head of the party’s South Jeolla chapter, held a press conference Wednesday to demand Moon’s resignation.

“We cannot talk about the party’s future as long as Moon is the chairman,” they said in the joint statement. “Moon labeled his critics as greedy politicians demanding (the power to pick candidates for) nominations. He did harm to the NPAD members and disgraced the party by destroying its democracy and defaming his fellow lawmakers.”

Chairman Moon also faced growing pressure from the party’s Supreme Council to step down. Rep. Lee Jong-kul, floor leader of the NPAD and a member of the council, said he will boycott its meetings from now on.

The nine-member Supreme Council is the highest decision-making body of the NPAD, but two of its members already quit to press for Moon’s resignation. Of the nine, five were elected, while Moon and Lee - the chairman and the floor leader - were automatically given seats. Moon appointed the remaining two.

After the two members stepped down, the NPAD reduced the quorum needed for a Supreme Council meeting from nine to seven members.

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

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