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(2nd LD) Minjoo Party stresses its rival's failure to retain parliamentary majority

All Headlines 15:22 April 14, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS parliamentary speaker's remarks in paras 21-22; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, April 14 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition Minjoo Party on Thursday highlighted its rival Saenuri Party's loss of a parliamentary majority as it emerged victorious from the general elections, while the ruling party was put into a soul-searching mode, struggling to shore up public support.

Capitalizing on its triumph over the ruling party and government for "botched economic policies," the Minjoo Party's leader Kim Jong-in said the most substantial meaning of Wednesday's elections was the fact that the Saenuri Party failed to retain its legislative majority.

"There are no political forces that can defeat the people. We once again realize the fearful authority of the voters' minds," he said during a press conference after his party won 123 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, one more seat than the ruling party.

"The voters delivered their stern judgment on the botched economic policies of the Park Geun-hye government and the Saenuri Party, he added, urging the ruling camp to "realize" that the main cause of their defeat was a failure to improve the livelihoods of regular citizens.

Despite the electoral win, the Minjoo Party was not in a position to bask in the euphoria, Kim indicated, given that the election outcomes showed that the party had lost the backing of the country's southwestern region, its traditional political bastion.

Out of the total 28 seats in the region, his party bagged only three. The fledgling People's Party clinched 23 seats, rising as a formidable political force to be reckoned with.

"What goes around, comes around. We had always given only disappointment to the people in the region. It would be too brazen of us to call upon them to vote for us," he said. "We will accept their minds and would like to say we are sorry again. We will do our best (to win back their minds)."

Rep. Moon Jae-in, the former leader of the Minjoo Party, said that it was "painful" to see that the party had lost the support of its traditional stronghold.

"I think people (in the region) used a stick in a move to encourage us to work harder," he told reporters, pointing out that an opposition presidential candidate cannot win an election without support from the southwestern region.

"I think we should remain humble and make efforts (to woo them)."

Reeling from the election debacle, the leading members of the Saenuri Party offered to step down from their current in-house posts. Their resignations foreshadowed an imminent disbandment of the party leadership and a formation of an emergency panel that will lead the party to a leadership contest expected to be held as early as next month.

Saenuri Party leader Rep. Kim Moo-sung bowed out, taking responsibility for the crushing defeat. Reps. Kim Tae-ho and Hwang Jin-ha, the two core members of the leadership, followed suit.

In the elections, the ruling party won only 122 seats, far short of the majority and well below the 180-seat mark, which the party leadership once dreamed of to be able to pass bills without the opposition's consent.

Cheong Wa Dae said the electoral outcome well reflected "people's demands" to enhance their livelihoods.

"(Cheong Wa Dae) hopes that the 20th National Assembly will become a new legislature that works for the people and takes care of people's livelihoods," presidential spokesman Jung Youn-Kuk said during a press briefing.

His remarks were seen as an implicit demand for the National Assembly to support the government's drive for labor reform and economic revitalization.

In the wake of the defeat, speculation rose that President Park might conduct a personnel reshuffle -- at least of her aides in charge of political affairs -- in a move to show to the public her desire to better serve the people.

Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, co-chair of the minority People's Party, was seen as the biggest winner in the elections. His party won 38 seats, far more than the 20-seat requirement to form a parliamentary negotiating bloc.

The party pledged to become a "genuine representative" to realize people's aspirations for a change in politics.

"We will pay back with the kind of politics that changes politics, the government and the lives of the people," he said during a meeting with his party officials.

In an oblique reference to the politics beset by persistent factional feuds, regionalism and partisan backbiting, National Assembly speaker Chung Ui-hwa of the Saenuri Party said that the election outcome was voters' warning against the "arrogance" of those in power and "retrogressing" democracy.

"I hope that by upholding people's calls, the 20th National Assembly would carry out politics of genuine dialogue and compromise, and get parliamentary democracy to bloom," he was quoted by his aides as saying.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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