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DP, activist group and minor parties launch coalition

The Citizen Party is aimed at winning proportional seats
Mar 19,2020
The ruling Democratic Party (DP), a pro-Moon Jae-in activist group, and minor parties launched a political coalition Wednesday to win more proportional seats in the April 15 general elections.

The new party, whose name translates to “The Citizen Party” (CP), is a coalition of the five political parties and a platform party created by a civic group. The DP decided on Tuesday to work with the platform party, chaired by renowned scholars Woo Hee-jong and Choi Pae-kun, instead of choosing the Political Reform Alliance, a more established group created by veteran activists.

Woo and Choi held a press conference at the National Assembly on Wednesday to announce the launch of the coalition. Woo said the CP’s registration with the National Election Commission was completed on Monday, and five other parties including the DP signed agreements Tuesday to jointly field proportional candidates under the name of the CP.

The civic group that initiated the CP has its root in the “Dog Fight National Movement Headquarter,” formed by Moon loyalists and strong backers of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk. Last year, the movement organized 15 massive street rallies to support Cho and denounce the prosecution’s investigation into him and his family. Woo is a veterinary medicine professor of Seoul National University and Choi is an economics professor of Konkuk University.

During the press conference, Woo stressed that the coalition was created to help minor parties win proportional lawmakers, because the main opposition United Future Party(UFP) is trying to exploit the revised election system with its satellite offshoot, Future Korea Party (FKP). Woo also expressed regret that the Justice Party, a longtime ally of the DP, decided to not join them. “Because the clock is ticking, we hope the Justice Party won’t waste any more time to join us,” he said.

Woo said the CP will offer candidacies, supposedly offered to the Justice Party, to the members of the civic society. “We will receive recommendations,” Woo said. “We will also invite nomination committee members to fairly and professionally evaluate them.”

According to Choi, each minor party will also be given the right to recommend up to three candidates. Recommendations will be accepted by Saturday and evaluations will be completed by March 25 to register the candidates before the deadline.

“Based on the calculation of the DP, we can win about 16 seats,” Choi said. “When you think conservatively, the first nine to 10 candidacies will be allocated to minor parties and civic groups. The DP will receive latter numbers. We will decide on the orders based on the nomination committee’s reviews and the election law.”

The DP already selected 25 proportional candidates earlier this month and the CP will consider them.

After the election, victors are allowed to return to their original parties, and those not affiliated with any party can stay with the CP or become independent, Choi said. To maintain the backup candidate list, the coalition will not formally dismantle.

Choi also said the CP will recruit incumbent lawmakers of the DP in order to be assigned with a prominent placement in the proportional election ballot, overtly copying a strategy already used by the rival FKP. According to the election law, a political party with the most number of lawmakers is placed on the top of the ballot.

“We want to recruit at least 10,” said Woo. “Only then will our strategy to counter the FKP work.”

Choi refuted criticism that the coalition is a de facto satellite party of the DP. Choi said the ruling party is just one of the coalition members and has no control over the CP’s decision-making process.

Justice Party Chairwoman Sim Sang-jeung said her party “will not join a dirty trick to steal votes,” calling the DP’s coalition “unconstitutional and fake.”

At the end of last year, the DP and the Justice Party formed an alliance and railroaded a revision bill on the election law to introduce a new proportional representation system, intended to give opportunities to minor parties to win seats. The main opposition UFP, which opposed the change, decided to exploit the new rules by creating the satellite offshoot. Although the DP had fiercely condemned the UFP and even filed a criminal petition to the prosecution in February to investigate its satellite party for an election law violation, the ruling party ended up following the exact same strategy.

Sim also criticized the DP for choosing powerless coalition partners to control the process. “Honestly, I have never heard of those minor parties until now,” she said. “I understand their desperation as a ruling party to win the majority, but they should have trusted the voters’ collective intelligence and chosen the righteous path.”

The Political Reform Alliance also expressed disappointment and anger. It held a press conference on Wednesday and said the DP made an abrupt, unilateral decision to join the CP without consulting them, despite their earlier talks.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]