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(LEAD) Defectors from People's Party create new liberal party

All Headlines 16:37 February 06, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 5-6)

SEOUL, Feb. 6 (Yonhap) -- A group of defectors from the center-left People's Party launched a new liberal party Tuesday, breaking with a centrist political campaign and vowing to retain their ideological identity.

The 15 lawmakers and their supporters held a convention to mark the creation of the Party for Democracy and Peace, after they left the minor opposition party on Monday in protest against leader Ahn Cheol-soo's push for a merger with the center-right Bareun Party.

The renegades have opposed Ahn's integration drive, arguing that it would obscure the People's Party's political identity, undermine its policy platform and alienate its supporters in the country's southwestern Honam region.

Cho Bae-sook, the leader of the new Party for Democracy and Peace, waves the party's flag during a convention marking its creation at the National Assembly in Seoul on Feb. 6, 2018. (Yonhap)

They have recommended, by consensus, four-term Rep. Cho Bae-sook and third-term Rep. Chang Byoung-wan as the new party's chief and floor leader, respectively. Reps. Kim Kyung-jin and Jeong In-hwa were picked as the party's election campaign chief and secretary-general, respectively.

"We hereby create the Party for Democracy and Peace to walk a path for people's livelihoods, peace, democracy, reform and equality, and a path towards a new Republic of Korea," the party said in a statement.

"We will put ourselves at the vanguard of the efforts to realize consensus-based democracy anchored in a multiple-party system, and political reform," it added.

The new party will become the fourth largest group in the 300-seat National Assembly, behind the ruling Democratic Party with 121 lawmakers, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party with 117 and the People's Party with 24.

The party, however, failed to form a parliamentary negotiating bloc, which requires at least 20 lawmakers. But more legislators, such as Lee Yong-ho, are expected to join the party.

Meanwhile, the People's Party and Bareun Party are set to hold a joint national convention next Tuesday to complete the process of their merger, which could bolster their political clout ahead of the June gubernatorial and mayoral elections.

Last month, Ahn and Yoo Seung-min, the leader of the Bareun Party, officially declared their resolve to merge the parties, vowing to break with "old, corrupt, factional and outmoded" politics and bring together "reform-minded conservatives and rational centrists."

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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