Ruling party split over impeached Park
UN chief Ban Ki-moon reclaims top spot in latest presidential polls
A South Korean ruling party faction said on Tuesday it would form a new party, and key members said they hoped outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would join it to launch a widely expected bid to become president.
If Ban joined the new party, it would give him a conservative platform while distancing himself from the ruling Saenuri Party of President Park Geun-hye, which has become tainted by a corruption scandal that led to a parliamentary impeachment vote against her this month.
The 29 lawmakers defecting from the Saenuri Party were among those who supported the parliamentary motion to impeach her over the scandal, which was passed overwhelmingly on Dec 9.
Some analysts expect the new party to become the country’s main conservative force and further defections to it from Park’s party were likely, especially if Ban joined.
“We are hoping SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon will join the New Conservative Party for Reform, and if he joins, it will be right that he would compete in a fair primary,” said Yoo Seong-min, a member of the new party, using the new party’s tentative name.
In a Realmeter poll released on Monday, Ban reclaimed the top spot with 23.3 percent of respondents supporting him, just ahead of the liberal Democratic Party’s Moon Jae-in, at 23.1 percent.
The defections cut the number of seats held by Saenuri to fewer than 100 in the 300-member chamber. The Saenuri unexpectedly lost its majority in April parliamentary elections.
Ban, 72, has not declared an intention to run for president, only saying he would devote himself to the country after his tenure ends this month.
Nevertheless, he had until recently been widely expected to run for the top job as a member of Park’s party.
But running as a Saenuri candidate looks far less attractive given the corruption scandal gripping the country, in which a friend of Park’s is accused of colluding with the president to pressure big businesses into paying money to foundations backing Park’s initiatives.
Kim Jun-seok, a Dongguk University political science professor, said Ban supporters in the Saenuri Party, including lawmakers from his home region of Chungcheong, were waiting to see what he would do.
Everyone remaining in the party is calculating what their next move should be.” Kim Jun-seok, Dongguk University political science professor
Ban could opt to form his own group, with the intention of later joining forces with the new conservative party, saving him from having to run in the new party’s primary contest, Kim said, an arrangement which is not unusual in Korean politics.
“Everyone remaining in the party is calculating what their next move should be,” Kim said.
“Saenuri has lost its identity and the new party will take the lead among conservatives.”
The Constitutional Court has up to 180 days to uphold or overturn the impeachment vote against Park, who has been stripped of her powers in the meantime.