Ex-presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo says he will not run for April elections

SEOUL-- Ahn Cheol-soo, a former presidential candidate, vowed Sunday to create a new political party as he returned home to resume his political career after a 16-month-long hiatus.

Ahn also said he will spearhead efforts to correct misguided policies of the current government, though he said he will not run for the April parliamentary elections.

"I will create a political party that will realize a pragmatic and middle-of-the-road politics," Ahn said in a news conference upon arrival at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul.

Ahn, once popular with his "new politics" mantra, retreated from politics following his defeat in the Seoul mayoral race in June 2018. He left for Germany to study in September 2018 and then moved to the United States.

Early this month, he made a surprise announcement of his plan to return to the political scene.

Ahn's move is expected to expedite ongoing discussions of integration in the conservative bloc in the run-up to the April 15 general elections.

But experts cast doubts on whether his return will be welcomed by voters as public support for Ahn has been on the wane, apparently as he has failed to bring about political reforms as he earlier promised.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) is discussing ways to merge with the minor opposition New Conservative Party in an effort to consolidate conservative votes to challenge the ruling Democratic Party (DP).

The minor party was launched on Jan. 5 by eight lawmakers who defected from the minor Bareunmirae Party (BP), which Ahn previously co-founded and headed.

LKP chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn publicly voiced hope that Ahn could join his drive for the unified conservative bloc.

But Ahn made it clear that he has no interest in joining "reckless" integrations, as he wants to play a role in revamping "out-of-date" politics.

Ahn, a doctor-turned-computer expert, gained popularity among young Koreans when he entered politics in 2011 with a relatively clean image.

He was a front-runner ahead of the 2011 by-election for Seoul mayor but later dropped his bid and supported Park Won-soon, who is now the Seoul mayor.

He also withdrew from the presidential race in November 2012, less than a month before the election and gave his support to Moon Jae-in, then candidate of the main opposition party. He ran for the presidential election in May 2017 but lost.

Ahn co-founded the minor central-left People's Party in February 2016 ahead of the 2017 presidential election.

The party merged with the central-right Bareun Party in 2018 to create the BP, the third-largest party here. It was a marriage of political groups with opposite support bases, harboring the sources of internal tensions.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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