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[Newsmaker] Centrist third party on course to split

Minor opposition Bareunmirae Party, formed in February last year to challenge the bipartisan establishment, is on the verge of splitting.

The party’s meeting for “nonpartisan initiative” has launched a committee to prepare for the formation of a new party with “a centrist reform agenda.”

Heading the committee is Rep. Ha Tae-keung, a conservative politician who helped integrate factions supporting two former third-party presidential candidates, Ahn Cheol-soo and Yoo Seong-min, into a single party.

The committee comprises pro-Yoo lawmakers, with Yoo on the front line.

Yoo Seong-min (center) photographed Sunday at the preparatory committee meeting for a new party. (Yonhap)
Yoo Seong-min (center) photographed Sunday at the preparatory committee meeting for a new party. (Yonhap)

In a press release, the committee said the new party will be tentatively named “change and reform.”

“In less than four days since the announcement of the party’s formation, over 2,000 have voiced their support,” it said.

Rep. Ha said the newly launched party might just be able to “replace (Liberty Korea Party) as the major opposition.”

“As the ‘new conservatives,’ the party could win over 150 seats at the parliament,” he said. “This would not be possible with the establishment conservatives as they are now.”

The Bareunmirae Party was launched with the merger of two centrist parties -- one chaired by Ahn and the other by Yoo.

Ahn and Yoo became the party’s co-founders with the common vision to “transform Korea’s political scene by doing away with partisanship and factional politics,’” and present an “alternative” to the two major parties -- Democratic Party and Liberty Korea Party.

The party began to lose ground, however, following losses in the June 2018 regional elections, and then again in this April’s by-elections.

Pro-Yoo faction’s breakaway proposal from Bareunmirae may have been influenced by an electoral reform bill currently pending at the parliament, according to political pundits.

Political commentator Rhee Jong-hoon told The Korea Herald the revisions to the election laws favor small-scale minor parties in winning seats, a likely advantage to a new party that must have been factored into the decision.

The 15 lawmakers on the nonpartisan initiative intraparty group are set to bolt from Bareunmirae, which currently holds 28 seats at the National Assembly. The departure will cost Bareunmirae its status as floor negotiation group.

Bareunmirae spokesperson Kim Jung-hwa criticized the split move, saying that “attempting to create a new party without disaffiliating themselves from the current one is scandalous.”

By Kim Arin (