Independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo officially launched a new opposition party Tuesday, the "People's Party."
The opening came 51 days after Ahn bolted from the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK) in December, announcing a plan to form a separate opposition force.
The new party is expected to change the political landscape characterized by the rivalry between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition MPK and realign the opposition bloc ahead of the general election slated for April 13.
Rep. Ahn and his aides held an inauguration ceremony in Daejeon and vowed to make a strong centrist party, expressing hopes to win seats in the upcoming election with the support of centrist voters.
"We are launching the party to bring back the tradition of centrist politics," Han Sang-jin, co-chair of the preparatory committee said during an inauguration ceremony. "We will work on reforming politics while focusing efforts on narrowing the income gap, improving national security, and protecting the public," he added.
Rep. Chun Jung-bae, who recently joined forces with Ahn, will lead the party as a co-chairman with Ahn, and Rep. Kim Han-gil, will serve as a co-head of the election campaign committee along with Chun and Ahn, said party officials.
Since his departure, Ahn has expanded his force with fellow MPK lawmakers and members who defected to Ahn's camp in opposition to the leadership of the party's former leader, Moon Jae-in.
The party has yet to earn the status of a negotiation body in the Assembly. Ahn fell short of recruiting 20 incumbent lawmakers required to receive government subsidies of 8 billion won ($6.6 million) and the right to participate in negotiations of the ruling and main opposition parties. So far, 17 incumbent lawmakers have joined his camp.
The party that drew support from voters in Gwangju and Jeolla Provinces, traditional opposition home turf, is now witnessing faltering popularity there.
While the MPK realigned itself, changing its leader from Moon to Kim Jong-in, a former ruling party campaign strategist and recruited new figures, the People's Party seems to be losing momentum, political commentators said. Ahn needs to show tangible reformist moves to secure the status of being the third party, they said
By Kim Hyo-jin
Online Archive: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2016/02/116_197115.html