South Korea’s Ahn, Democrats Join Forces Before Local Elections

South Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party merged with a smaller party led by former presidential candidate Ahn Cheol Soo.

The Democrats and Ahn’s New Political Vision Party reached agreement early this morning, and will work together to improve democracy and people’s livelihoods, Democratic Party leader Kim Han Gil said today in a joint press conference with Ahn in Seoul. The new party has yet to be named.

The merger could bolster liberal opposition to President Park Geun Hye’s conservative Saenuri Party ahead of municipal elections in June and the next presidential election, due in 2017. While Ahn’s party only holds two seats in parliament, he has the highest approval rating among opposition party leaders.

“Our goal is to win the presidential election,” Ahn said. “We will seek political reform, uphold democracy, boost shared growth, build a welfare state, and aim for peace and unification.”

Park’s ruling party holds 156 of 298 parliamentary seats, and the Democratic Party has 126 lawmakers. The president has a 55 percent approval rating, according to a Realmeter survey conducted Feb. 17-21, while Ahn’s support is at 24.2 percent.

Chung Mong Joon, a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker and former chairman of Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., announced his candidacy for Seoul mayor in a speech in the city today. The poll will be held June 4.

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