Ruling party expels 3 lawmakers to lend to CP

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Ruling party expels 3 lawmakers to lend to CP

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) expelled three proportional lawmakers on Wednesday to lend them to its de facto satellite offshoot, the Citizen Party (CP).

DP lawmakers unanimously agreed to expel Reps. Shim Ki-joon, Jung Eun-hye and Je Youn-kyung at a meeting Wednesday afternoon to allow their participation in the CP, a liberal coalition created earlier this month for the DP to win more proportional seats.

With the expulsions, the three proportional lawmakers will be able to join the CP without losing their seats, unlike if they had left voluntarily.

Earlier in the day, Woo Hee-jong and Choi Pae-kun, co-chairs of the CP, visited DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan to discuss the arrangement. “I feel like I’m meeting in-laws,” Lee told them. “I guess we are the parents of a son,” Choi responded.

The DP plans to persuade more lawmakers to join the CP. As of now, four lawmakers including Lee Jong-kul gave up their DP memberships to join the CP. The DP wants at least one more lawmaker to join the CP in order to help it secure a more prestigious placement on the proportional representation ballot.

According to the Public Official Election Act, a party with more than five lawmakers with constituencies as of the candidate registration deadline on Friday or a party that won over 3 percent of votes in the previous election are given higher ballot placement for proportional representation.

If the CP ends up having just four lawmakers with constituencies, it will be placed fourth. As of now, the Party for People’s Livelihoods is No. 1 with 13 lawmakers with constituencies. The Future Korea Party, the satellite offshoot of the main opposition United Future Party, follows with eight lawmakers.

The Justice Party, which has two lawmakers and scored over 3 percent in the last election, is currently No. 3, but the CP will be able to take its spot if it has more than five lawmakers with constituencies.

Because Chairman Lee is not running in the April general elections, he is allowed to campaign for another party, such as the CP, according to the Public Official Election Act.

According to a DP official, the ruling party is trying to tell its supporters that the CP is its only partner in order to stop the votes from splitting. The CP is competing against another liberal party for proportional representations, created by former DP members and largely participated in by former aides of President Moon Jae-in.

The Open Democrats, created by former lawmaker Chung Bong-ju and independent Rep. Sohn Hye-won, said Wednesday that the people want the ruling party to form an alliance with them. DP Chairman Lee, however, said, “They are impersonating allies of the DP and the Moon administration. They are violating political ethics.”

Earlier this week, the CP and the Open Democrats finalized their candidates. The CP selected 35 candidates, including 20 DP members and two from minor parties. It assigned No. 1 to Dr. Shin Hyun-young of Myongji Hospital, who has actively fought against the new coronavirus outbreak.

DP candidates were given numbers below 11, as the ruling party has agreed to with the CP when they formed the coalition.

The Open Democrats also announced its 20 candidates. According to the list, Kim Chin-ae, an architect and a former lawmaker, was given No. 1.

Choe Kang-wook, former presidential secretary for civil service discipline and a suspect of a criminal investigation, was given No. 2. He was indicted in January on charges of helping former Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s son apply to law schools by issuing false internship certificates. Cho’s trial is scheduled to start on April 21.

Former presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom, who resigned last year after an explosive backlash to reports that he had dabbled in real estate speculations, possibly with inside information, was given No. 4.

Chu Jin-hyung, an economist who worked for the World Bank and Hanwha Investment and Securities and the architect of the DP’s economic pledges for the 2016 general election, was given No. 6. Chu has a history of drunk driving in 2008, and his son was suspected of draft dodging.

Hwang Hee-seok, former director of the Human Rights Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, was nominated as the No. 8 candidate of the Open Democrats. Hwang led the ministry’s policy to weaken the prosecution, calling a series of corruption and abuse of power investigations into former Justice Minister Cho and his family a “coup by the prosecutors.”

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

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