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(LEAD) Two opposition candidates unite in Seoul district by-elections

2014/07/24 17:38

(ATTN: ADDS ruling party's response in paras 8-9; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, July 24 (Yonhap) -- The candidate of the main opposition party for the upcoming by-elections in a Seoul constituency dropped out of the race on Thursday in an apparent move to boost the opposition bloc's chance of victory.

Ki Dong-min, affiliated with the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), declared the withdrawal of his candidacy in the Dongjak-B constituency for the July 30 by-elections to support Roh Hoe-chan of the minor opposition Justice Party.

The decision to merge their campaigns came as Na Kyung-won of the ruling Saenuri Party was seen having a clear lead over the two.

Ki's withdrawal also followed Roh's suggestion of a merger earlier this week. Roh had said that he would quit the race to endorse Ki if talks for unity failed.

"Today marks the 100th day since the tragic sinking of the ferry Sewol took place ... I don't want to be ashamed in front of the victims and the bereaved families," said former Vice Mayor of Seoul Ki in a press conference.

"I will quit the race and let everything go ... I hope candidate Roh judges the ruling Saenuri Party and wins victory," he added.

Ki's resignation is expected to accelerate moves to unify the opposition bloc in other electoral districts for the elections in which 15 parliamentary seats are up for grabs. It is the largest-ever number of seats for a by-election.

The decision to field a single opposition candidate drew instant criticism from the ruling Saenuri Party.

"Such an old practice of collusion paralyzes the nation's party-based politics," Saenuri's chairman Kim Moo-sung said. "The unity is nothing but the opposition party's recognition of its defeat. That will disappoint voters, which means candidate Na's victory."

   The NPAD has called for a judgment of the Park administration, holding it responsible for the poor management of April's deadly sinking of the ferry Sewol, which left more than 300 people dead or missing.

The ruling party, meanwhile, has vowed to reclaim an absolute majority in the 300-member National Assembly, where it holds 147 out of 285 seats.

The elections are also widely seen as a referendum on President Park Geun-hye's conservative administration. Neither the ruling nor the main opposition party claimed a clear-cut victory in the June 4 local elections.

Ki Dong-min, the main opposition party's candidate for Seoul's Dongjak-B constituency in the July 30 by-elections, bows before a press conference in Seoul on July 24, 2014, to annouce his withdrawal from the race. (Yonhap)

Ki Dong-min, the main opposition party's candidate for Seoul's Dongjak-B constituency in the July 30 by-elections, bows before a press conference in Seoul on July 24, 2014, to annouce his withdrawal from the race. (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr

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