South Korea's ruling Uri Party was forced out of the top spot in the country's legislature as 23 lawmakers quit yesterday to form a new party ahead of presidential elections later this year.
The defection is likely to further cripple President Roh Moo-hyun's efforts to garner legislative support for key policies. Roh is already suffering from worsening public approval and considered a lame duck in his last year in office.
With the lawmakers' decision to leave, the Uri Party now has 110 seats in the 299-member National Assembly, boosting the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) to the No. 1 spot with 127 seats.
Several lawmakers have already left the Uri Party in the hope of distancing themselves from unpopular Roh ahead of the December presidential election. More defections are expected.
"We will sincerely cooperate with President Roh Moo-hyun so that he can manage affairs during the remainder of his term, but we strongly reject any political intervention," the 23 lawmakers said in a joint statement
"We hope many lawmakers would join us," the statement said.
Details on a new party have yet to be determined. The Uri Party is expected to announce the party's plans for a breakup at their annual convention next week.
The Uri Party said in a statement that yesterday's mass defections were "not a desirable act in view of political morals," adding the defectors should have joined forces with party members instead if it wanted to form another party.
It is widely expected the Uri Party will split into at least two groups.
It is common in South Korea for politicians to launch new parties ahead of presidential elections to bolster their chances.
The Uri Party has suffered humiliating defeats in recent local elections as Roh's popularity has waned, amid perceptions that his administration is unwilling to acknowledge its failure to counter soaring house prices and revive a stagnant economy.
Roh has criticized moves within the Uri Party to form a new party, and has even offered to quit the party to contain such steps.
Roh's single five-year term ends in February next year.
The ruling camp lacks a prominent candidate to compete against presidential hopefuls from the conservative GNP.
Latest polls show former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak, a Hyundai chief executive turned politician, as the front runner, followed by Park Geun-hye, the daughter of former military dictator Park Chung-hee. Both are in the GNP.
Presidential hopefuls are to formally declare their candidacy in November.
The Uri Party was formed in 2003 as a splinter from the then ruling Democratic Party.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies