Saenuri spinoff aims for Jan. 20

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Saenuri spinoff aims for Jan. 20

Saenuri lawmakers outside the pro-Park Geun-hye faction Friday laid out details of their defection and the launch of a new party to compete for conservative votes, announcing Jan. 20 as the new party’s likely launch date.

“After defecting from the Saenuri Tuesday, we will register our group with the National Assembly as a negotiation bloc and then elect a floor leader,” said Rep. Hwang Young-cheul, who has been serving as a spokesman for the anti-Park camp.

A total of 35 lawmakers said Wednesday they would leave the Saenuri Party, badly split after the unprecedented abuse of power scandal implicating the president and her controversial friend Choi Soon-sil. The 35 lawmakers set Tuesday as their defection deadline.

Hwang said his group will tentatively call the group “New Conservative Party for Reform” until an official party name is chosen on the launch date. The defectors are disgruntled with Park loyalists, who managed to hold onto control of the party after a surprise victory in an intra-party race for the party’s floor leader.

The anti-Park camp’s decision to officially form what will be the fourth largest party came a week after Chung Woo-taik, a Park loyalist, was elected floor leader, defeating Rep. Na Kyung-won, fielded by the non-Park loyalists. Rep. Yoo Seong-min, considered co-leader of the anti-Park group along with former Saenuri chief Kim Moo-sung, said the new party would take much more progressive stances in policies on the economy, labor, education and welfare than the Saenuri while maintaining a traditional conservative posture on national security.

The anti-Park camp could attract more Saenuri lawmakers, especially those who represent districts in the Chungcheong provinces, who are calculating the political fallout from defecting.

One pivotal issue is what party UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will choose when he returns next year after completing his second term on Dec.31. Many expect Ban to run for president.

It Ban joins the new party, defectors from the Saenuri could swell to well over 60, leaving the Saenuri without a political heavyweight to run in the presidential election next year. Former floor leader Chung Jin-suk, who represents Gongju in South Chungcheong, is among the Saenuri lawmakers mulling a defection and watching Ban’s move.

Should only 35 lawmakers defect Tuesday, the Saenuri lawmaker count will fall to 93 from the current 128.

The new party will have over 20 lawmakers, which gives it the status of a negotiation bloc in the assembly, so it can send representatives to negotiate legislative calendars and receive higher state subsidies than smaller parties.

Ahead of the upcoming defections, the Saenuri nominated Pastor In Myung-jin to head an emergency council, which will give the 70-year-old full authority to lead the conservative party.

In is known as a moderate conservative who is in favor of providing humanitarian aid to North Korea, different from Saenuri lawmakers with harder positions on the North.

The nomination of In came after pro-Park members turned down a demand by non-Park loyalists that they name Rep. Yoo Seong-min the interim leader to carry out far-reaching reform of the party. The demand was the final ultimatum of the anti-Park camp.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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