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Ahn calls for ban on party nomination of local election candidates

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- Popular independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo slammed the ruling party Sunday for backtracking from its pledge to ban parties from nominating candidates for local elections.

The star lawmaker, who is setting up his own party, made his pitch amid heated debate on whether to deprive parties of the right to nominate candidates for municipal mayor and councils in the run-up to local elections in June. The ban is intended to eliminate corrupt links between those wanting nomination and the party, often through exchange of bribes.

Both ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) had promised to ban the right ahead of the presidential election in 2012. But the ruling party has been trying to shift its course, citing side effects outweighing advantages.

"The Saenuri Party should immediately stop trying to nullify the agreement. It should remember the fact that the people keep an eye on a series of breach of promises," Ahn said during a press briefing.

The rookie politician also demanded that President Park Geun-hye "make clear her stance on the situation where her election pledge is going nowhere."

Pointing to its failure to serve as a venue of discussion on the reform of election rules, Ahn called for the immediate dissolution of the parliamentary special committee on political reform.

The rival parties launched the committee last month to discuss changing election rules, but it has failed to come up with any tangible results.

"The committee exists not to achieve political reform for the people but to defend interests of existing political entities," Ahn said, calling for its complete overhaul.

"As one of the candidates in the (2012) presidential election, I feel greatly disappointed ... Old political practices make me have a stronger will to pursue new politics," he said.

The founder of South Korea's largest anti-virus software firm AhnLab, Ahn entered the 2012 presidential campaign with huge support from young liberal voters despite having no prior experience in politics.

He, however, dropped out of the race to back opposition candidate Moon Jae-in and was later elected to the National Assembly as an independent in April's by-elections.

Ahn's recent move to establish his own potential party has been a focus of attention due to his popularity. If it fares well in the local elections, the envisioned party could emerge as a major force in South Korean politics.

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