Leftist party struggles to expel vote-rigging candidates
By Kim Jung-yoon
The Unified Progressive Party (UPP) said Monday it had officially started the process of expelling four lawmakers-elect involved in a vote-rigging scandal. However, obstacles remain before the expulsions can proceed.
Senior members of the minor opposition party held a meeting with members of its in-house disciplinary committee to dismiss lawmakers-elect Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon, along with two others.
The four were allegedly selected through a rigged ballot for the party’s election of proportional representation candidates for the April 11 National Assembly elections.
Kim and Lee admitted that they were involved in the false ballot, but have refused to step down, as have the two other lawmakers-elect.
Interim party leader Kang Ki-kab reached the decision to expel the defiant two last Friday, following the issuance of an ultimatum that they ignored.
Instead, the two troubled lawmakers-elect changed their party membership registration from Seoul to Gyeonggi Province in a bid to avoid the sanctions.
The disciplinary committee decided to move their membership back under the jurisdiction of Seoul, where party reformists seized power, at the request of the interim leadership at the first meeting.
The expulsion process will take several days as the disciplinary committee must gain the approval of the respective region’s party members.
However, analysts say that the expulsions are unlikely to take place even after the decision is made.
The disciplinary committee will decide their fate within 60 days, and in the meantime, regardless of the decision, Kim and Lee will keep their seats in the National Assembly.
Under such circumstances, the internal feud is expected to be prolonged, with the Political Party Law and other complexities becoming stumbling blocks in the procedure.
According to Article 33 of the law, aside from the leadership decision, half of a party’s lawmakers must agree to expel a party member.
Yet, at the risk of the UPP losing two seats in the parliament, the party faced vehement opposition from six of the 13 lawmakers-elect from the former mainstream of the party — Kim Sun-dong, Kim Mi-hee, Kim Jae-yeon, Lee Seok-gi, Oh Byung-yoon, and Lee Sang-kyu.
On the other hand, five members of the reformist faction insist on the expulsions, making it difficult for either side to secure a majority.
Moderate lawmakers-elect Chung Jin-hoo and Kim Jae-nam are the key members who will ultimately make a decision about the expulsions.
Meanwhile, the ruling Saenuri Party is urging both Kim and Lee, convicted of engaging in pro-North Korean activities in the past, to completely step down as lawmakers.
Yet, in order to dismiss them from the parliament, the consensus of two-thirds of the Assembly is required, adding to the already complex procedures.
The main opposition Democratic United Party is pushing the UPP to resolve the crisis because it forged a coalition with the minor party.