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Ruling Liberty Korea Party seeks to salvage party in presidential election

Feb. 19, 2017 - 18:24 By Jo He-rim
With the chances increasing of President Park Geun-hye being forced out of office, the ruling conservative Liberty Korea Party has begun preparations to select a new state chief.

The party leadership visited the Daegu and North Gyeongsang region Sunday as part of a bus tour campaign to communicate with party members at its regional headquarters.

The team included emergency council chief In Myng-jin, Floor Leader Rep. Chung Woo-taik, as well as the party’s presidential aspirants.

Also, the party kicked off its election preparation committee last week, a late move compared to other opposition parties.

The interim leader of the ruling conservative Liberty Korea Party, In Myung-jin, speaks to party members at a regional conference in the southern city of Daegu, Sunday. (Yonhap)

The greatest dilemma for the embattled ruling party is that it may neither fully acknowledge Park’s likely impeachment, nor neglect the imminent presidential election.

Park’s powers were suspended in December, upon the impeachment bill passed by the National Assembly over allegations that she allowed her confidante Choi Soon-sil to meddle in state affairs and colluded with her to extort funds from conglomerates.

The Constitutional Court, which is slated to wrap up hearings Friday, is expected to hand down its final ruling in early March. If it upholds Park’s ouster, the nation is to hold an election within 60 days to select a new president.

Also, the ongoing investigation by the independent counsel team recently gained momentum by having Lee Jae-yong, heir apparent of the nation’s largest conglomerate Samsung Group, arrested over bribery charges related to Park’s scandal.

Amid such progress indicating Park’s likely impeachment, the conservative camp has been showing signs of shifting its focus to the upcoming election rather than hanging onto its anti-impeachment campaign.

“We do not think the court will rule to remove the president from office. The committee is established at a similar timing as in the past years, when presidential elections take place in December,” the party’s Secretary-General Bak Maeng-woo said Thursday.

The party’s Floor Leader Rep. Chung Woo-taik hinted at his worries over the court ruling.

“We do not know exactly when the presidential election will be held, but it seems like an early election is already decided,” Rep. Chung said in a local radio interview Thursday. “The special probe led by independent counsel Park Young-soo should be more open to criticism that they are affected more by public sentiment than legal principals.”

The party currently has the most number of presidential candidates across the aisle, with its fourth aspirant, Rep. An Sang-soo expected to announce his bid in the election race Wednesday.

Rhee In-je, a former supreme representative of the conservative ruling party, declared his candidacy earlier last month. Rep. Won Yoo-chul, and a conservative commentator Kim Jin have also revealed their intention to run in the election.

The party has seen a drop in its support rating as voters associated it with Park’s scandal. A factional feud over the impeachment within the party resulted in 32 members leaving to create the conservative Bareun Party.

By Jo He-rim (