Ahn Cheol-soo has ditched ambitions to form a third political force and thrown in his fortunes with the main opposition Democratic Party. Ahn's group and the DP are to merge ahead of the June 4 local elections.
That will make the election for Seoul mayor and regional governors and council members essentially a two-horse race between the ruling Saenuri Party and the new opposition bloc.
DP leader Kim Han-gil and Ahn in a joint press conference on Sunday said, "Both sides agreed to push for the creation of a new party as soon as possible and work together to achieve a transfer of power" in the 2017 presidential election.
They said the new party will abolish the controversial top-down nomination system, which has given rise to massive bribery in the past as candidates hustled for openings.
The two sides will form a taskforce from DP members and Ahn's groups in equal halves to prepare the launch of the party. Both lawmakers insisted the move is aimed at "creating a new party rather than merging two parties."
The Saenuri Party seized on potential disappointment among Ahn's supporters. "Kim gave up his responsibility as head of the leading opposition party, while Ahn broke his promise to create a third force in the political landscape, just in order to secure victories in the elections," said Saenuri Party spokesman Park Dae-chul.
In November last year, Ahn vowed to create a new political party, saying the established political framework can no longer meet people's demands and it is "high time for a new political force to come forward."