Senior officials of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP), composed of liberal opposition parties, raise their fists during an event to launch a joint preparation committee for next month’s parliamentary elections. From left in front are UPP leaders Cho Joon-ho, Lee Jung-hee, Shim Sang-jung and Rhyu Si-min. / Yonhap
By Lee Tae-hoon
Rep. Lee Jung-hee, co-chairwoman of the minor opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), forecast a rosy outlook for the April 11 National Assembly elections, amid growing controversy over her winning a primary.
Lee said she was willing to hold another primary for the Gwanak constituency in Seoul, where she was picked as a unified candidate over a contender from the Democratic United Party (DUP).
A senior member from her camp sent text messages urging party members to lie about their ages _ saying they were in their 20s and 30s _ to increase the chances of participating in a phone survey, based on which the UPP agreed to field unified candidates.
Nevertheless, she said that her party is sailing smoothly to become a parliamentary negotiating group.
“Our party estimates that we will clinch about 30 parliamentary seats, including the ones given under the proportional representative system, and become a parliamentary negotiating group without much difficulty,” Rep. Lee Jung-hee, co-chairwoman of the UPP, said in a radio interview Tuesday.
Roh Hoi-chan, UPP spokesman, said he is also confident that his leftist party will manage to win in at least 15 of the electoral districts and secure several more through the proportional system, which allocates uncontested parliamentary seats to parties in proportion to the number of votes they gain through direct voting.
“Once the UPP becomes a parliamentary negotiating body, it will bring an epoch-making change to the National Assembly, which has long been governed by two parties,” he said.
The National Assembly currently only recognizes the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) as negotiating bodies as the law stipulates that a political party must secure at least 20 seats to qualify for it.
None of the far-left leaning parties have thus far succeeded in becoming an Assembly negotiating group.
The UPP, which is known for far left-leaning and pro-North Korean policies, currently holds seven of the 299 seats in the unicameral Assembly.
Many of the UPP officials do not acknowledge North Korea’s invasion of South Korea and have been demanding the withdrawal of the free trade agreement with the United States, which has been implemented since March 15.
Observers say the UPP was the biggest beneficiary of an open primary with the DUP as the minority party won in 11 of 76 constituencies over the main opposition party for next month's elections.
Co-leaders Lee, Shim Sang-jung, and Roh as well other well-known political figures including Cheon Ho-sun, a former presidential spokesman for the late President Roh Moo-hyun, won against DUP candidates in the primaries.