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(2nd LD) Opposition candidates unite for by-elections

2014/07/24 20:15

(ATTN: UPDATES with withdrawal of two more candidates in paras 1-2, 7-11; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, July 24 (Yonhap) -- Three opposition candidates for next week's parliamentary by-elections withdrew their candidacies Thursday in a move seen as boosting the opposition bloc's chance of victory.

Ki Dong-min, affiliated with the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), first declared the withdrawal of his candidacy in Seoul's Dongjak-B constituency ahead of 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.

Later in the day, two candidates of the Justice Party withdrew their candidacies to back their NPAD counterparts.

Rep. Cheon Ho-sun, the chief of the Justice Party, quit the race for a seat in Suwon, just south of Seoul, to back Park Kwang-on.

Lee Jeong-mi also withdrew from another district in Suwon, leaving Sohn Hak-kyu as the main opposition candidate in that election.

A total of 15 parliamentary seats are up for grabs in the upcoming elections, the largest-ever number for a by-election.

The moves drew instant criticism from the ruling 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."

   The NPAD has called on the public to pass judgment on the conservative administration of President Park Geun-hye, 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 widely seen as a referendum on the Park 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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