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Yoon, Ahn unify candidacies; Ahn concedes

(The Korea Herald/Asia News Network) -- Presidential candidates of the two opposition parties, Yoon Suk-yeol and Ahn Cheol-soo, merged their campaigns Thursday in a dramatic turn of events a day before early voting begins.
In a joint statement, Yoon of the main opposition People Power and Ahn of the minor opposition People’s Party said they have decided to merge their campaigns in pursuit of a better regime change. Ahn withdrew his candidacy, declaring his support for Yoon.

Presidential candidates Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party and Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition People’s Party walk together after announcing their campaign merger at the National Assembly on Thursday. --Photo Yonhap via the Korea Herald

“Today, I, Ahn Cheol-soo and Yoon Suk-yeol have decided to join forces to better pursue regime change. ... I have no doubt that we will be able to shift the power (from the ruling bloc), by our unification,” Ahn said, reading the joint statement.
“We are one team. We will fill in for each other in what we lack to realise the regime change. With a capable and prepared administration, we will launch a successful government.”
As Ahn declared his support for Yoon, Yoon responded, “I, Yoon Suk-yeol, will take Ahn’s words and certainly win in the (presidential election) and successfully launch a united people’s government.”
Vowing to create a government that would unite the people, the two candidates said they will merge parties and form a joint presidential transition team if Yoon is elected president.
Holding each others’ hands, the two bowed and apologised for the long delay in finalising their merger.
Both Yoon and Ahn had proposed a campaign merger in order to vie against the ruling party nominee Lee Jae-myung. But weekslong negotiations had dragged out and turned into public disputes as they failed to come to a compromise.
The merger comes on the eve of the two-day early voting that begins on Friday, and six days before the presidential election on Wednesday.
With the unification, the duo seeks to raise chances for Yoon and the opposition bloc in the tight race against Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea.
Following the press conference, the two explained how they were able to come to an agreement.
Yoon said he met with Ahn at midnight Thursday until 2:30 a.m. before they were able to reach an understanding. Their two negotiators, Rep. Jang Je-won of the People Power Party and Rep. Lee Tae-kyu of the People’s Party, were also present. They met at the house of Rep. Jang’s brother-in-law, who has close ties with Ahn.
Ahn said he chose to withdraw his initial suggestion in running a public primary as there was not enough time, and decided to concede to Yoon.
The two did not confirm what Ahn’s next position would be after the presidential election, but Ahn expressed a willingness to be in office.
“In the past 10 years, I have made a lot of efforts (since entering politics), and was committed to legislation (serving two terms) as a lawmaker. But I did not have a chance to try administrative works to show actual achievements,” Ahn said.
“I know there are people who are disappointed with my decision (to withdraw my candidacy). I would like to deliver my apology here, and I will make sure to prove my executive ability to make Korea a better country.”
Details of the party merger will be discussed after the presidential election, they said.
Ahn, who has long been advocating for a multiparty system in Korea, said he will work to change the right-leaning People Power Party to promote centrism.
Ahn also proposed reforming the electoral system from the single-member constituency system to a medium or minor electorate system, and also introduce a two-round system for presidency.
As the election law bans publishing polling results within six days of the election, how the merger will affect Yoon’s ratings will only be revealed in the election.

(Latest Update March 4, 2022)

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