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(LEAD) Merger bid among 3 minor parties hits snag, but joint negotiation group formed

All News 16:44 February 17, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, UPDATES with more info from last 4 paras; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) -- A proposal to merge three minor parties hit a snag Monday as the chief of the opposition Bareunmirae Party (BP) suspended the review of its approval, claiming that the move could deepen regionalism.

The BP, the Party for Democracy and Peace and the New Alternative Party jointly announced a plan Friday to unite for the April 15 parliamentary elections, eyeing becoming the third-largest political bloc sharing support bases in the southwestern provinces of North and South Jeolla.

But BP chairman Sohn Hak-kyu rejected the approval of their agreement to launch the tentatively named Democratic Unity Party, saying that drawing moderate and reform-minded younger faces should be prioritized.

Sohn Hak-kyu (2nd from L), chief of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party, speaks at a meeting of the party's leadership council at the National Assembly in Seoul on Feb. 17, 2020. (Yonhap)

"The creation of a new party based in the Honam areas can never become a new thing. (A move to spark) regionalism for the elections cannot be our choice," Sohn said at a meeting of the party's leadership council.

But Sohn's remarks will inevitably draw criticism as he was the one who proposed the merger to the two other parties.

The BP has 17 lawmakers and the PDP has four National Assembly seats. The New Alternative Party holds seven parliamentary seats.

The BP has been dwindling since Rep. Yoo Seong-min left the party with seven other lawmakers. Ahn Cheol-soo, a former presidential candidate, also defected from the BP to create his new party.

Despite Sohn's effective veto, 21 lawmakers of the three minor parties agreed to form a joint negotiation bloc in the unicameral parliament, which requires at least 20 parliamentary seats.

"We've decided to create a formal negotiating body to push for the merger of the three parties and prevent the National Assembly from being loosely operated due to two major parties' hostile co-existence," they said in a statement.

"We will push for bills that take into account people's lives, fairness, justice and reform at an extraordinary parliamentary session."

Rep. You Sung-yop of the New Alternative Party will serve as the floor leader of the joint negotiation group.

Lawmakers of the Bareunmirae Party, the Party for Democracy and Peace and the New Alternative Party pose for a photo at the National Assembly in Seoul on Feb. 17, 2020, before a meeting to discuss ways to form a joint negotiation body. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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