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(News Focus) Power struggle looms in opposition bloc

All News 17:44 January 19, 2016

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- The opposition bloc is faced with a looming power struggle as the main opposition party is trying to turn over a new leaf and rebuild itself in the lead-up to the general elections in April.

On Tuesday Moon Jae-in, the chairman of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, announced that he will resign from his post as soon as possible amid an internal feud that led to the departure of some two dozen lawmakers.

Moon said he is stepping aside to integrate the opposition bloc, adding that he will announce the exact time of the resignation after discussions with senior party members.

Moon, who assumed the post in February 2015, earned support from the party in the beginning as he was evaluated as a front-runner in a supposed two-way race for the next presidential election.

The confrontation within the opposition party New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), the former name of the Minjoo Party, began to surface after a clash between mainstream lawmakers from the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction and non-mainstream lawmakers over a vote of confidence on Moon's leadership.

The pro-Roh lawmakers, led by Moon who served as former President Roh's chief of staff, are regionally based in Honam. Honam refers to the southwestern region that is the political turf of the opposition party.

Non-mainstream lawmakers were divided into different factions, including Ahn Cheol-soo, a former co-chairman of the party.

The feud hit its peak when Moon turned down Ahn's call for his resignation and party reform following the NPAD's crushing defeat in the parliamentary by-elections in April 2015.

Ahn eventually quit the party in January when negotiations with Moon over a leadership change fell through, which subsequently led to the departure of another 16 lawmakers.

Political analysts say that Moon's resignation would largely reorganize the local political landscape of the opposition bloc ahead of the April 13 poll.

First, it is expected that there would be no immediate departure from the Minjoo Party, those from a non-mainstream faction who have been dissatisfied with the party's leadership.

Five political heavyweights, including Park Jie-won, a former floor leader of the NPAD's predecessor, have postponed their announcement to leave the party.

Also, Moon is expected to make efforts to form an alliance with Reps. Chun Jung-bae and Park Joo-sun, who also left the party last year to create their own political group.

However, there still remains an obstacle to possible reconciliation between the Minjoo Party and Ahn's new party slated to be launched in March.

Last week, Moon named Kim Chong-in, an architect behind President Park Geun-hye's "economic democracy" pledge, to head the party's election campaign committee.

Moon said that the committee will be given full authority to nominate candidates and that he will give up his entire right during the nomination process.

Last week, Han Sanng-jin, a co-chairman of a preparatory committee for Ahn's new party, publicly denounced Kim for being an active member of a committee under then Lt. Gen. Chun Doo-hwan in 1980.

Han's remarks were made as a criticism that Kim is a conservative figure who worked for Chun, who seized power in a military coup in 1979.

On Monday, Ahn also denounced Moon's decision to recruit Kim, saying that he is "trying to win the election without principles."

khj@yna.co.kr
(END)

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