Ahn’s liberal party calls for delaying election

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Ahn’s liberal party calls for delaying election

The newly established liberal party founded by independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo has proposed that the April general election be postponed due to the National Assembly’s failure to create an electoral map.

Negotiations between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Minjoo Party repeatedly stalled in the lead-up to the new year, a failure that caused the 246 existing electoral districts under the current map to lose their legal effectiveness on Jan. 1.

The preparation committee for Ahn’s new People’s Party issued a statement Wednesday demanding to delay the upcoming general election, scheduled for April 13.

Ahn, an independent lawmaker who left the main opposition party in December, plans to formally launch the People’s Party with a group of dissident lawmakers before the Lunar New Year holiday.

The party said Thursday that it will hold the launch ceremony on Feb. 2.

“For the sake of the people’s right to choose their representatives and to expand opportunities for fresh political talent, the election must be delayed,” the preparation committee, currently chaired by Han Sang-jin, a professor emeritus at Seoul National University, said in its statement.

“This unprecedented failure to create an electoral map [by the legal deadline] was caused by [the inefficiency of] the country’s two largest parties. If there was a strong third party, this situation would not have come about.”

The ruling party flatly rejected the demand.

“We held a general election even during the Korean War,” said Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung. “It is unacceptable to delay the election.”

The Minjoo Party also rejected the proposal, with opposition leader Moon Jae-in denouncing the request as “unacceptable.”

“An election is the pillar of representative democracy of our country,” he said. “Delaying an election for political reasons is unacceptable.”

In 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that the current electoral map resulted in unequal representation due to population changes and gave the legislature until the end of 2015 to fix the discrepancies. The court said the ratio of the most populous electoral district to the least populous must be lower than 2 to 1. The ratio is now 3 to 1.

Of the 300 seats in the National Assembly, 246 are for elected lawmakers, while the rest are left for proportional representatives. With no progress made by the legislature on redrawing the electoral map, the National Election Commission allowed registered candidates to carry out limited campaign activities despite not having fixed constituencies.

Sitting lawmakers are allowed to contact voters in their constituencies to brief them about their activities, which political newcomers have complained for allowing the two main parties to use the current situation to their advantage.

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

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