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(3rd LD) Ruling party eyes presidential election in June

All Headlines 12:52 December 01, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead, throughout with details)

SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party said Thursday it will seek to have President Park Geun-hye step down before the end of April and hold the next presidential election in June instead of late 2017.

The announcement came as the ruling party and the opposition bloc have voiced different views on when the embattled chief executive should leave office. The opposition is seeking to put an impeachment motion against Park to a vote this month.

Even between the political opposition, the Democratic Party and the People's Party don't see eye to eye on when to push for an impeachment vote, especially since the president's Saenuri loyalists and even her opponents within the ruling party generally want the president to resign voluntarily.

Park has been accused of colluding with her confidante Choi Soon-sil in an influence-peddling scandal. Earlier this week, Park said she would comply with lawmakers decision on her fate. She has, however, declined to give more details about her future.

Rep. Chung Jin-suk, the floor leader of Saenuri, said the decision to have the president step down by late April came unanimously among its lawmakers, as they believed that time is needed to prepare for the presidential election and the orderly handover of power.

Reflecting the division, the opposition parties have been forced to delay the vote for the impeachment, originally planned for Friday, with the minor People's Party calling for more time to gather support for Park's ouster among lawmakers.

In order for the impeachment motion to be passed, 200 of the 300 lawmakers in the National Assembly need to sign off on it. The opposition bloc is 28 seats short of getting the two-third vote and therefore must persuade the non-Park faction in Saenuri to join forces.

"Our goal is to impeach Park, rather than focusing on moving ahead with the motion and the timing," said Rep. Lee Yong-ho, the spokesman of the People's Party. "As the non-Park members of Saenuri wish to continue discussions until at least next Wednesday, it is effectively impossible for the motion to be passed (Friday)."

Within the ruling Saenuri Party, Rep. Hwang Young-cheul, the spokesman for Saenuri lawmakers calling for Park to step down, said the view among members is for Park to bow out no later than April 30.

"We sincerely urge the president to express her stance promptly on the deadline," he said.

Rep. Kim Moo-sung, former head of Saenuri, said Thursday he asked Rep. Choo Mi-ae, the head of the main opposition Democratic Party, to end the push for the impeachment if Park decides to leave by the end of April. Choo, however, claimed Park should resign by January.

President Park Geun-hye (Yonhap)


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