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(News Focus) Saenuri striving to get back on feet via power restructuring

2016/05/25 14:22

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, May 25 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Saenuri Party is trying to get back on its feet after last month's election defeat reorganizing its power structure to grant more power to a single leader, political pundits said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, senior members discussed ways to reorganize the way the ruling camp is run, which may become the first such change in more than 10 years. In the past, the party employed a collective leadership system, that has been cited for fueling internal discord and bickering.

Chung Jin-suk, the newly elected floor leader; former chairman Kim Moo-sung; and Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan, former finance minister and leader of the pro-President Park Geun-hye faction, shared the ideas, including the possible restructuring measure.

Sources said the three discussed the need to make changes that could give considerable authority to a single leader, although no conclusions were reached.

Chung urged Kim and Choi to join forces to find the solution, adding that such "top shareholders" cannot "sit idle."

   "As the 20th National Assembly begins next week, we cannot leave the leadership of the ruling party empty," a party official said. He said following the talks on Tuesday, the party will try to nominate a new leader as soon as possible so as to reduce any further fallout.

The party, however, has not yet officially confirmed the possible changes. Shortly after the meeting, Kim also told a local daily the discussion was not a finalized agreement.

Nevertheless, the talks are significant as the party's management has been stalled since last month's election.

This combined photo shows Kim Moo-sung (L), former chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party; its floor leader Chung Jin-suk (C); and former Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan. The three discussed restructuring to grant more power to a single leader at a meeting in Seoul on May 24, 2016. (Yonhap) This combined photo shows Kim Moo-sung (L), former chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party; its floor leader Chung Jin-suk (C); and former Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan. The three discussed restructuring to grant more power to a single leader at a meeting in Seoul on May 24, 2016. (Yonhap)

"The vacuum in the party's leadership must be solved promptly. The three-way discussion is set to receive support among party members," a non-pro-Park faction lawmaker said.

Rep. Kim stepped down as the Saenuri's head shortly after the election. The leadership of the party has remained vacant after the resignation.

In 2003, Lee Hoi-chang, who led the then-Grand National Party, which later changed its name to Saenuri, adopted the single leader policy to overcome the defeat of the previous presidential election. This, however, again changed to a collective one in 2004.

Under the collective system of government, all major decisions are made by nine senior party members, including seven of whom are elected at a party convention.

While the new system succeeded in generating consensus in the running of the party, policy watchers said the system backfired with Saenuri becoming more split and slow to make decisions.

As the ruling party held nine council leaders, its regular meetings failed to produce significant results

Members have been complaining that change is critical for Saenuri to remain a viable presence in the political landscape after losing the April 13 polls and with the presidential election looming in late 2017.

The logo of the ruling Saenuri Party (Yonhap) The logo of the ruling Saenuri Party (Yonhap)

In the general elections, the ruling party secured just 122 out of 300 seats up for grabs, well short of a majority. It even allowed the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea to become the largest single entity in the National Assembly. The newly founded opposition People's Party also emerged as a significant No. 3 player by winning 38 seats.

Reflecting such hard times, the party floor leader struggled to kick off an emergency committee earlier this month, although his efforts ended fruitlessly in the face of greater conflict.

Due to such problems following the elections, Saenuri has also been losing more ground in the polls.

According to local pollster Realmeter's latest survey, Saenuri's approval rating stood at 28.4 percent, while that of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea reached 29.5 percent, marking the first time in four weeks that it surpassed the ruling party. The minor opposition People's Party posted an approval rating of 19.8 percent.

The poll was conducted by Realmeter on 2,531 South Koreans last week.

Political watchers, meanwhile, said the latest restructuring discussion may pave the way for the ruling party to breathe new life into rejuvenating its public support base.

Others said the party must walk a fine line not to alienate members, with the party's current policy direction and those left out of the latest agreement process.

colin@yna.co.kr

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