Former leader Ahn Cheol-soo of the major opposition party announced his defection from the party Sunday amid a deepening power struggle with the incumbent leadership just months ahead of the general elections in April.
The defection came after Ahn’s negotiations with Moon Jae-in, chairman of New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), over a leadership change fell through.
“I failed to meet the demand to reform and renovate NPAD to make it a reliable party, which the public entrusts with their powers,” Ahn said in an ad hoc press conference in the National Assembly.
“I have come to the conclusion that a change and reform is impossible from inside the party,” said Ahn, who co-led the main opposition party last year.
If this can’t be done within the party, change should be brought about by a strong shock outside the party, the computer mogul-turned-politician said, vowing to “create a political group that can achieve a government change.”
“In order for that, I will do everything I can,” he added.
Ahn’s move likely spells further trouble for the main opposition party ahead of the April 13 elections.
The high-profile defection may result in a stream of similar party desertions from NPAD, leading to a major division in the opposition bloc as the April elections approa
Rep. Moon Byung-ho, a former secretary for Ahn, was the first to pledge defection.
After a discussion with party members, he will leave the party early this week, Moon said, adding that up to 10 NPAD lawmakers may follow suit within this week. By the year’s end, as many as 30 NPAD members could desert the main opposition party, he predicted.
Ahn had been calling for the resignation of Moon to reform the leadership of the main opposition party following NPAD’s crushing defeat in the parliamentary by-elections last April.
Moon did not accept the proposal, calling it “unrealistic” and “ill-timed.”
Former party leader Ahn Cheol-soo announces his defection from the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy on Dec. 13, 2015. (Yonhap)
The main opposition party was immediately rattled by the desertion by the political heavyweight, with party members voicing scathing criticism and concerns over the move.
“It is unfortunate and regrettable that we could not stop the defection even after our all-out efforts,” NPAD Rep. Youn Kwan-suk said after his botched arbitration efforts between Ahn and Moon. “It is feared to take away the prospect of victory in the general elections,” he said.
Rep. Kim Sung-gon noted that “A split in the opposition bloc will no doubt lead to a defeat. Without solidarity of any kind, everyone will be doomed.”
The ruling Saenuri Party slammed Ahn’s desertion as a political performance engineered before creating a unified opposition front before the general elections.
“I wonder if this is not a political gesture for the unification of the opposition front intended for next year’s parliamentary elections,” ruling party spokesman Kim Young-woo said, recalling Ahn’s withdrawal of his presidential bid in 2012 which helped Moon gather more voters in the previous presidential race.