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Former South Korean PM to launch new party ahead of April elections

Written by The Anand Market

Updated on:

SEOUL (Reuters) – A former South Korean prime minister announced plans on Thursday to launch a new political party in a bid to challenge the dominance of the two main parties in Parliament ahead of an April 10 election.

Lee Nak-yon, a five-term lawmaker who served as prime minister from 2017 to 2020 and later chaired the main opposition Democratic Party, is one of several political figures who have announced or signaled their intention to leave the progressive party.

The Democratic Party has a majority in Parliament but is facing growing fissures, with some members seeking to oust leader Lee Jae-myung, accusing him of abuse of power.

Lee Nak-yon told a news conference he wanted to end polarized two-party politics, criticizing both Democrats and President Yoon Suk Yeol’s conservative People Power Party.

“The Democratic Party has degenerated into a one-man, ironclad party where violent and vulgar words and actions are pervasive,” Lee said, calling for a multi-party system of “compromise and coordination.” .

Lee’s new party could potentially undermine the Democratic Party’s majority in April’s legislative elections, which would have political implications for the remainder of Yoon’s term, analysts say.

With 167 seats in the 300-member unicameral parliament, Democrats have passed dozens of controversial bills despite opposition from Yoon and his ruling party.

Lee did not provide further details about his new party, but analysts expect him to join forces with two other former Democratic Party prime ministers and several incumbent lawmakers.

“As a potential presidential candidate with a Democratic stronghold as his supporter base, he has the potential to shake things up in the election,” said Shin Yul, a political science professor at Myongji University.

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Shin said the party could also end up harming Yoon if he ends up reconciling and forming a coalition with the Democrats.

Democrats have faced criticism following a series of corruption scandals, and some members have urged party leader Lee to step down or enact reforms and create an emergency steering committee before the election.

The political pressure on Lee Jae-myung comes after he was released Wednesday from a hospital where he has been recovering since an attacker stabbed him in the neck last week.

He is also on trial after being indicted on corruption charges in connection with a billion-dollar real estate scandal from his previous term as mayor, among other allegations.

Lee has denied any wrongdoing. Reuters could not immediately reach Lee for comment on Lee Nak-yon’s plan to create a new party, although 129 Democratic lawmakers issued a statement against the new party.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; editing by Ed Davies and Jacqueline Wong)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters.