World Bulletin / News Desk
“There’s no choice but to have the party separated,” a key conservative lawmaker and Park loyalist said Monday according to local news agency Yonhap.
The Saenuri camp has been pressured by the persistence of an anti-Park faction for months -- and even more so since the president became embroiled in a weeks-long influence-peddling scandal that has led to the arrests of aides and an unofficial confidante who allegedly wielded power over state affairs.
But there was ruling party harmony last week as conservative lawmakers united in urging Park to step down in April, prompted by the president’s offer to quit on the unlikely condition that Seoul’s parliament could agree on next steps.
After a record 2.3 million protesters rallied over the weekend to demand Park’s immediate resignation and the dismantling of the Saenuri Party, 40 ruling camp rebels reverted to their previous pro-impeachment stance Sunday -- effectively guaranteeing the required two-thirds majority this Friday, given that the opposition bloc needs at least 28 Saenuri votes to go their way.
The three opposition parties have rejected a political solution, with Democratic Party leader Choo Mi-ae cutting a determined figure at a press briefing Monday in front of a bright red countdown banner: “Impeachment D-4.”
“The fate of South Korean politics and the country’s future rest on [Park’s] impeachment,” Choo declared.
Meanwhile, Saenuri floor leader Chung Jin-suk admitted the position of his party’s “dissenters” has made it challenging to negotiate a way out.
Having failed to recover from April’s shock general election defeat even before the present scandal, the ruling camp’s looming separation could completely reshape a parliamentary landscape already dominated by liberal representatives.
Outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is tipped to challenge opposition candidates in a snap election if he decides to run on behalf of whatever is left of the Saenuri Party, but he is not due to return to South Korea until January.
If lawmakers do vote Friday for Park to become the country’s first impeached president, the final decision would then go to the Constitutional Court.