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Ahn vows to keep government in check

Ahn Cheol-soo, the new chairman of the minor centrist opposition People’s Party, on Monday vowed to keep the government in check, sharpening the edge against the Moon Jae-in administration.

“The People’s Party should always be awake. We will become an opposition that can strongly go against the government when it makes decisions that divide the people and goes against national benefit,” said Ahn at a meeting with senior party members.

The party’s former chief and presidential candidate reclaimed his leadership at Sunday’s party convention against three other candidates -- Chung Dong-young, Chun Jung-bae and Lee Un-ju. He was the first co-chair of the party with Chun when he established the party last year. 

Newly elected Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party speaks at the party’s Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, Monday. (Yonhap)
Newly elected Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party speaks at the party’s Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, Monday. (Yonhap)

Ahn’s hard-line stance appears to signal a change in the party’s previous relationship with the government. The 40-member People’s Party had went along to pass some of Moon’s key reform bills, including the controversial extra budget bill to increase jobs in the public sector.

During his acceptance speech Sunday, the new chief claimed the Moon administration is growing more “arrogant” and “self-righteous” and that the People’s Party is “charged to watch over the government.”

At Monday’s meeting, he said he would lead the party so that it would be able to criticize the government with clear principles and also provide solutions to persuade the government.

He also stressed that its “competitors” are outside of the party, mindful of the three other candidates who competed for the leadership position.

“I will hold hands with all the newly elected supreme council members, and my fellow candidates, Chung, Chun and Lee. I will apologize for my weaknesses and endeavor to win the hearts of all party members,” he said.

He reiterated that the party’s identity should represent centrist politics and that it should become a true alternative force in South Korea’s bipolarized parliament. It went in line with his previous statements to pursue “radical centrism.”

“A multiparty system is the new normal, and our party will push to consolidate. We should also focus on the upcoming constitutional reform,” he added.

Ahn also revealed plans to establish a party committee to promote reform of the party earlier in the morning, during his visit to the Seoul National Cemetery where he paid tribute to late former presidents.

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea congratulated Ahn on Monday, seeking for support in its legislative reform moves at the parliament.

“A lot of citizens have high expectations for Ahn,” the party’s Floor Leader Rep. Woo Won-shik said. “I personally pulled out Ahn’s manifestos from this year’s presidential election last night. I spotted that so many of his sincere policies match with our party’s policy pledges,” he said, adding he would like to cooperate with the party to lead the parliament without confrontation.

The ruling party currently holds 120 seats at the 299-member National Assembly. It needs support from the minor party to proceed with some of its controversial bills.

Ahn was elected as the leader of the party at Sunday’s party convention, garnering 51 percent of the vote and avoiding a run-off.

In the latest survey by Realmeter on Monday, the ruling Democratic Party topped the list with an approval rating of 51.8 percent, followed by the main opposition conservative Liberty Korea Party with 14.9 percent. The People’s Party was fourth among five political parties, with 6.7 percent.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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