Three NPAD lawmakers defect

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Three NPAD lawmakers defect

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From left, liberal lawmakers Moon Byung-ho, Hwang Ju-hong, and You Sung-yop leave a press conference on Thursday at the National Assembly, where they announced their defection from the New Politics Alliance for Democracy. [KIM SANG SEON]

Three liberal lawmakers have announced their decision to defect from the country’s largest opposition party, making them the first to leave since the departure of the party’s co-founder over the weekend.

Reps. Moon Byung-ho, Hwang Ju-hong, and You Sung-yop said Thursday that they were leaving the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) in order to form a negotiating bloc in the National Assembly by January with the intention to defeat the ruling Saenuri Party in April’s general election and the 2017 presidential race.

“As we leave the NPAD today, we will walk through the path of victory and the path to reunite and renovate the opposition,” Moon said at a press conference.

“We will do our best to form a negotiating group, but the number of lawmakers is not the most important thing,” he said. “I believe we can change our nation even with three lawmakers who have a firm ambition to right political wrongs.

“But, we will surely form a negotiation bloc. You can bet on it.”

The former NPAD lawmaker did not confirm whether the three lawmakers would go on to create a new party with Ahn Cheol-soo, the NPAD’s former co-founder and co-chairman, but said he would unveil a blueprint in the next few days.

The lawmakers were the first to follow suit after Ahn defected from the main opposition on Sunday, after negotiations with NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in over the election of a new party leader failed.

Rep. Moon, one of Ahn’s closest aides, said it is highly likely that more lawmakers will resign from the party this weekend and contended they could gather as many as 20 legislators, the minimum number needed to form a negotiation group in parliament, which can wield power in discussions over bills and other pending issues.

Currently, Korea’s National Assembly has two negotiating groups, the ruling Saenuri Party and the major opposition NPAD, which also happen to be the largest parties in the legislature.

The NPAD lost three seats Thursday in the 300-member Assembly as a result of the lawmakers’ departure, reducing the number of opposition lawmakers from 126 to 123. The Saenuri Party has 157 legislators.

A group of 2,000 NPAD members and officials announced Thursday afternoon that they would also leave the party to support Ahn, a possible presidential contender.

On Wednesday, NPAD Chairman Moon gave up his right to name several proportional representatives, vowing to adopt a bottom-up nomination system, in an attempt to take responsibility for Ahn’s defection, which had the party scrambling to do damage control.

Choi Jae-sung, a three-term lawmaker and one of the chairman’s loyalists, announced Thursday that he would not run in the general election in April, asserting that the party must be fully renovated.

“A grand change needs a greater sacrifice,” he said, vowing to do all he could to support the party for the next election, rather than cling to his seat.

On Thursday, Ahn continued marching to gather his supporters in the Jeolla region, the opposition’s home base. “I must compete against the NPAD now that I have left. I will show that in my actions, not in words,” he said in a press conference, adding that he would not join hands with politicians who are corrupt, fond of power or exclude others.

BY KIM SO-HEE [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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