PPP rules out national convention after chief’s suspension

July 11, 2022

The ruling People Power Party (PPP) has concluded that it cannot hold a national convention to elect a new leader after Chairman Lee Jun-seok was suspended over a sexual bribery scandal, the party’s floor leader said Monday.

Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, who serves as acting chairman after Lee was suspended last week, told reporters that the party’s secretariat reached the conclusion after a review of the party charter and regulations, and the party’s Supreme Council endorsed the conclusion.

The secretariat’s planning and coordination bureau determined that a national convention can be held only when the party’s chairmanship becomes vacant, and the suspension of Lee’s party membership does not belong to the category, Kweon said.

The party officially approved the decision in a general meeting of lawmakers later Monday, with the lawmakers adopting a resolution that they will do their best to help the party move smoothly forward under the system of an acting chairman.

On Friday, the PPP’s ethics committee suspended Lee’s party membership for six months over allegations that he received sexual services paid for by a businessman seeking his influence in 2013 and attempted to cover up the wrongdoing earlier this year after the allegations surfaced.

Lee, who has pleaded his innocence, said he will not step down as party chairman and will take all possible measures to reverse the ethics panel’s decision, including filing for a court injunction and requesting a reexamination.

Kweon also said Lee should accept the ethics committee’s decision.

“The disciplinary measure has been finalized with the ethics committee’s decision,” he said. “It is the senior party members’ consensus that the committee’s decision should be accommodated.”

Kweon said he has not been in touch with the embattled party chief, saying it is “not the right time” to do so.

Lee has not appeared in public following Friday’s verdict.

The PPP has been embroiled in political turmoil following Friday’s decision. Lee, who has constantly been at odds with key party members considered closed to President Yoon Suk-yeol, has claimed the ethics committee meeting was political machinations engineered by them.

The recent crisis appeared to have taken a toll on the PPP’s party favorability. A poll by Realmeter released Monday showed that the favorability rating for the ruling party came in at 40.9 percent, down 2.6 percentage points from the previous poll, while in that poll, the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) rose 1.5 percentage points to 41.8 percent.

The gap between the two narrowed within the margin of error, with the DP’s favorability rating exceeding the PPP’s for the first time in 14 weeks.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.