“No plan B” - opposition Minjoo Party going all-in on impeachment vote

Posted on : 2016-12-05 15:39 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Minjoo Party lawmakers stepping up persuasion of non-Park wing Saenuri lawmakers, who still could determine outcome,
Former Saenuri Party leader Kim Moo-sung (front
Former Saenuri Party leader Kim Moo-sung (front

With the anti-Park Geun-hye wing of the ruling Saenuri Party shifting its position toward supporting the motion for impeachment against President Park after the candlelight rally on Dec. 3, there is a growing sense inside the Minjoo Party and other opposition parties that it may be possible to pass the motion. There has been a noticeable decline in the pessimistic view that the motion would fail, a view that pervaded the opposition parties last week when they were pushing to hold the vote on Dec. 2.

“There‘s no point in worrying about whether the motion will or will not pass. The three opposition parties burned their bridges the moment they jointly sponsored the motion for impeachment,” said Woo Sang-ho, floor leader for the Minjoo Party of Korea, on Dec. 4.

“Since the anti-Park wing of the Saenuri Party has agreed to vote for the motion for impeachment, our objective should be to convince them to help us pass the motion,” said another key member of the party.

Given the mood in the opposition parties, the Saenuri Party resolved to call on Park to step down in April and to hold the next presidential election in June, but the fierce support for Park’s immediate resignation or impeachment in the candlelight rallies held over the weekend not only in the capital area but also in the southeast Yeongnam region (a traditional conservative stronghold) appear to have had an effect.

“Anti-Park lawmakers [in the Saenuri Party] must be under immense pressure. If we work a little harder, we can secure the votes from the anti-Park faction that we need to pass the motion for impeachment,” said Gi Dong-min, floor spokesperson for the Minjoo Party of Korea.

“The crowds that gathered to the candlelight rallies in Busan on Dec. 3 numbered 200,000, more than ever before. Anti-Park Saenuri lawmakers have no reason to endure the political backlash from saving President Park, and they have no choice but to support the impeachment if they want to be reelected,” said a first-term Minjoo Party lawmaker from Busan, a city where the anti-Park Saenuri faction has a strong presence.

In fact, the “crisis caucus,” a group of anti-Park lawmakers in the Saenuri Party, basically decided on the evening of Dec. 4 to throw their support behind the impeachment motion when it is brought to the floor on Dec. 9, a decision that further boosts the optimistic mood in the opposition parties.

The leaders of the Minjoo Party and other opposition parties intend to use a mix of hard and soft tactics with the anti-Park Saenuri faction. While publicly putting pressure on the faction to support the impeachment, they will be attempting to persuade individual lawmakers in the faction through all available channels, including permanent committees, regional affiliation and tenure in the National Assembly.

“The anti-Park lawmakers have little reason to state that they will support the impeachment vote and then to vote against it. That‘s something that they know better than anyone. We’re going to step up private meetings with them while using the candlelight rallies as public leverage,” said Yun Gwan-seok, senior spokesperson for the Minjoo Party.

But inside the Minjoo Party, a fair number of lawmakers are still resigned to the possibility that the motion will fail, an outcome that they believe would not be a strategic loss in the upcoming presidential campaign. Their argument is that a failure of the impeachment motion would cause public outrage to concentrate not on the opposition parties but rather on the Saenuri Party for opposing impeachment, inflicting a crippling blow on the Saenuri Party.

“Why should we be worried about the impeachment motion failing? If it fails, the Saenuri Party will be crushed in the presidential election, so we don‘t have anything to lose,” said a first-term lawmaker who represents the mainstream of the Minjoo Party.

Nevertheless, party leadership has committed itself to doing everything it can to ensure the motion passes. Their view is that the failure of the impeachment motion would inevitably have consequences not only for the Saenuri Party but also for the opposition parties. Indeed, a significant number of lawmakers in the Minjoo Party have not only criticized the party for disregarding its political role and passively relying on the public protests but have also held that, if the motion is defeated, the leaders of the party should be held responsible for not exerting their political influence to support impeachment. The party’s leadership is also under pressure because of tough remarks by former party head Moon Jae-in (who remains the most influential figure in the party) that they should be ready to resign from their positions as lawmakers if the impeachment motion fails.

Opposition parties also have no choice but to worry about what tactics the Saenuri Party mainstream and the Blue House are preparing if the impeachment motion is voted down. Even if the impeachment motion is defeated, it is certain that the Saenuri Party will buckle in for the long haul with the argument that it forced Park to step down early as the people wanted. In this event, the entire political discourse is likely to be consumed by the next presidential election, with the ruling and opposition parties locked in a tedious struggle. “We need to put everything into passing this motion. We can’t even afford to prepare a plan B [in case the motion is defeated],” said a key figure in the Minjoo Party.

By Lee Se-young, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]



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