Chariman of the dissolved Uri Party
By Kim Sue-young
The pro-government Uri Party has disbanded itself to merge with a new liberal party, the United New Democratic Party (UNDP).
The Uri Party approved a bill regarding the merger with 2,174 for and 155 against among party delegates during a national convention in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province, Saturday.
The party, which has disappeared three years and nine months after it was launched by President Roh Moo-hyun and his followers, will sign an agreement on the merger with the UNDP Monday. The merger will register with the Central Election Commission on the same day, party officials said.
``People gave us 152 seats in the National Assembly elections in 2004 but we were not capable enough to fight against conservatives,'' Uri Chairman Chung Sye-kyun said. ``We offer an apology to them but we believe the merger will bring victory in December's presidential election.''
However, the party faces objections to the merger from many of its lawmakers and members.
Reps. Kim Hyuk-kyu and Kim Won-woong, who opened their bids for the Dec. 19 presidential race, gave up their bids to oppose the disbandment.
Before the convention began, about 400 party members staged a rally against the merger in front of the venue.
The UNDP, born on Aug. 5, will become the largest negotiating group in the Assembly with 143 seats, 14 more than those of the largest opposition Grand National Party (GNP), if the merger is successful. The main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) has 129 seats.
Political experts, however, speculated that the new party will likely have a rocky road ahead of the crucial vote.
They said the party failed to achieve its goal _ a coalition of liberal forces _ as the Democratic Party (DP) announced that it will not join the merger.
As a result, it seems that the liberals will not have a sole presidential candidate to compete against the GNP in the presidential election.
Also the new party drew criticisms that it was just the Uri Party laundering its name. Of 143 lawmakers of the UNDP, 138 came from the Uri Party, while the remaining five are former DP lawmakers.
The UNDP consists of lawmakers of different political groups, members of various civic groups and independents including presidential hopefuls Sohn Hak-kyu. A former Gyeonggi governor, Sohn defected from the GNP in March.