Ahn Cheol-soo, head of the minor opposition People's Party, declared on Dec. 20 that he would run for the Seoul mayoral by-election, which is slated for April next year.
“I thought that I should throw myself into the race to prevent a Presidential power change from becoming impossible with a defeat in the Seoul mayor election," he said during a press conference at the National Assembly.
Ahn declared, "I decided to run in the by-election for Seoul mayor with the determination of “gyeoljahaeji” (solving problems I myself created) and to truly develop and innovate Seoul." In the Oct. 26 by-election for Seoul mayor in 2011, Ahn, the strongest candidate at the time, gave up his candidacy to the late former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.
He cited the change of the incumbent government as a "task of the times" and stressed that the by-election for Seoul mayor should be the venue for the regime's judgment.
Noting that the Moon Jae-in administration is becoming an enemy of democracy and dictatorship, Ahn said, "I realized that nothing will change without putting a dagger in the heart of this brutal regime. With the victory in next April's by-election, we can go beyond the seven-part ridge for a change of the current regime.”
Ahn also expressed his intention to actively join the opposition alliance to win the election. “I hope that the by-election in April next year will be the winning one not by Ahn Cheol-soo but by all opposition parties.”
"I will play a leading role in stopping the government's reckless runaway by proudly appearing as a single opposition candidate and a citizen candidate of Seoul, the Republic of Korea," he said.
On Dec. 19, one day earlier from the official announcement, Ahn sent a message to his top party officials, saying “Having conceded a candidate to late former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, I could no longer turn a blind eye to repeated calls for innovation in Seoul city administration and securing a bridgehead for regime change.”
"Rather than having a special occasion or listening to someone else, the recommendation to run has continued for a long time and concerns have been building up over it, so Ahn withdrew his position and decided to run," a key member of the People's Party was quoted by the daily newspaper JoongAng Ilbo as saying on the phone.
"In particular, Ahn has heard a lot from both inside and outside the party and political elders that Ahn is partly responsible for the late former Mayor Park to win the mayoral election, and Ahn himself seems to have felt a great sense of responsibility for it," he explained.
It is said that the ruling party's unilateral handling of controversial bills such as the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials Act (CIO Act) at the recent regular session of the National Assembly also affected Ahn's decision to run for the mayor.
An official of the party said, "We saw the opposition party, which has an overwhelmingly small number of seats in the National Assembly, unable to resist and was helplessly defeated despite the ruling party's continuing to run wild, and I thought that Ahn could no longer standstill."
"In particular, Ahn chose the by-election as the last chance to prevent the Moon administration's runaway because next year's by-election is an important election that will not only affect the Seoul mayor but also the outcome of the upcoming presidential election," he said.
Some analysts say that it is the Ahn’s resolution to overcome the situation where influential opposition candidates cannot see the light except for Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol.
An opposition party official said, "As only the confrontation between President Moon Jae-in and Prosecutor General Yoon is highlighted and the opposition parties are rarely able to show their presence, there must have been some sense of crisis for Ahn, who dreams of becoming an opposition presidential candidate, and such a situation might drive him to run for the mayor."
Meanwhile, Ahn's candidacy has also caused the opposition party to lose control of the by-election for Seoul mayor. In the case of the People's Power Party, former lawmaker Na Kyung-won and former Seoul City Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who form the leading position in opinion polls, have yet to announce their candidacy.
Ahn's announcement to run for Seoul mayor, who is widely classified as a Presidential candidate, will also have an impact on their future moves.
Meanwhile, Kim Jong-in, chairman of the People's Power Emergency Response Committee, who has continued to make negative remarks about Ahn, did not give much meaning to Ahn’s announcement, saying, "He is just one of many candidates."