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(2nd LD) Liberal parties agree to field unified candidates for April elections

All Headlines 23:01 March 10, 2012

(ATTN: CHANGES 2nd para)

SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- The leaders of the nation's two liberal parties reached an agreement on Saturday to field unified candidates for next month's parliamentary elections to better pit hopefuls against their conservative rivals, party officials said.

Under the agreement between the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) and the leftist minor Unified Progressive Party (UPP), UPP members will run as unified opposition candidates in 16 districts nationwide. In 76 other districts, including 21 in Seoul, the two parties will select unified candidates through opinion poll competition.

DUP Chairwoman Han Myeong-sook and UPP Chairwoman Lee Jung-hee had earlier agreed to field unified candidates in some key districts and conduct a joint campaign on main election pledges.

The most contentious issues ahead of the vote are the free trade agreement with the United States and a controversial naval base project on the southern resort island of Jeju.

Through rounds of negotiations, the two leaders said they will oppose the trade pact due to go into effect on Thursday and push to stop the ongoing construction of the naval base.

"We have made a nationwide, comprehensive liberal alliance for the general elections for the first time in the nation," Han said after signing the agreement at the National Assembly. "The liberal alliance is the road to hope and victory."

Lee said the alliance will serve as a "catalyst to shift society toward liberal ideals."

The alliance move for the April vote has been closely watched as the election results could further affect liberals' bid to win the presidential race in December.

It is the first time in two decades South Korea will elect a new parliament and a new president in the same year.

The DUP was born out of a merger between the main opposition party and a novice party in December, while the UPP was established through a merger of three minor progressive parties during the same month.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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