Split of leftist party imminent
By Kang Hyun-kyung
The situation facing the minor Unified Progressive Party (UPP) worsened Sunday as mainstream members launched a separate leadership as a protest against the existing interim committee led by their opponents.
The leftist party has now two interim bodies _ one led by Rep. Kang Ki-kab _ indicating the internal feud is showing no signs of easing and the minor party could be split if the two sides fail to reconcile.
This is the first time in history that a political party has two interim committees overseeing party affairs. The two sides have denied the legitimacy of their counterpart.
On Sunday, Oh Byung-yoon, a UPP lawmaker-elect, told reporters that the new body will be run by grass-roots UPP members, asking the media to call it such.
“We’re going to unearth the truth regarding the voting fraud to regain the confidence of the people,” he said.
Yoo Seon-hee, a former supreme council member of the now-defunct Democratic Labor Party (a precursor to the UPP), will chair the body.
The lawmaker-elect alleged that the May 2 report by a UPP fact-finding team produced after undertaking an investigation of alleged vote rigging and irregularities, was not based on fact.
The report characterized the competition to pick UPP candidates to run in the parliamentary elections as a voting fraud, urging lawmakers-elect on the proportional representation system to step down.
Kang warned the mainstream, saying the launch of a separate body to protest the existing one was suicidal.
The new committee was launched a day after embattled lawmakers-elect refused a call to step down to take responsibility for the vote rigging during the competition to select proportional representation candidates and those to run in the April 11 elections on the UPP ticket.
Mainstream leader Lee Seok-gi, who is facing mounting calls to resign, met with Kang Friday in an attempt to narrow their differences.
During the closed-door meeting, aides of Lee said, the two failed to reach agreement on party reform plan and the lawmaker-elect made it clear he had no intention of resigning.
Earlier Kang notified that Lee and other lawmakers-elect to step down no later than today.
He issued the warning as the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, a critical partner of the progressive party, threatened to withdraw its support unless the UPP regained voter confidence by the resignation of the trouble-hit lawmakers-elect.
Recent polls found the UPP’s approval rate falling sharply following the feud that erupted weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Kang met a group of senior advisors, including religious leaders and renowned liberal scholars, who encouraged the party to form a coalition with the main opposition Democratic United Party during the April 11 election campaign.
The concerned advisors asked Kang to exchange views that can help patch up the deadly feud that has almost split the party.
The interim leadership planned to expel the lawmakers-elect if they didn’t follow their recommendations.
Under the current law, however, they would retain their status as lawmakers even if they are ousted from the UPP. Lawmakers can only be unseated when two thirds of sitting lawmakers vote to disqualify them.