Published : 2013-10-29 19:57
Updated : 2013-10-29 19:57
Election watchers have long predicted ruling Saenuri Party candidates will win in Wednesday’s by-elections for two parliamentary seats.
But just winning won’t cut it for the party, in the face of growing public mistrust over the national spy agency’s alleged interference in the 2012 presidential election, they said.
Former Grand National Party (the forerunner of the current Saenuri Party) chief Suh Chung-won will face off against main opposition Democratic Party candidate Oh Il-yong in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province
In Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province, former minister of public administration Park Myung-jae contests the city’s National Assembly seat against DP candidate Heo Dae-man.
The two districts have long been considered strongholds for the conservative party. Saenuri campaign strategists nevertheless emphasized the political experience of their candidates.
Suh is a six-time lawmaker and former journalist while Park served as a cabinet member during the Roh Moo-hyun administration.
DP candidates have countered by appealing their familiarity with the voting areas. Oh has served as a public policy architect for the DP’s Hwaseong office while Heo has experience as a Pohang city councilor.
“I predict the Saenuri Party will win without much sweat in both areas,” said Yeungnam University Professor of political science Kim Tae-il.
“But you have to know, they must win by huge margins, for the Saenuri to have really, really won,” he added.
Saenuri candidates have won in the contested Hwaseong district for the past two assembly elections while conservative candidates have occupied Pohang’s parliamentary seat since 1996.
The upcoming by-elections have much political symbolism because of the recent war of words between the Saenuri Party and the DP concerning accusations of illegal election-meddling by agents from the National Intelligence Service and the military’s cyber command during last year’s presidential elections.
“Because both districts are traditional strongholds for the Saenuri, their candidates must win by large margins, in order for the Park administration to be considered to have won voters’ favor.”
Any other election result, according to Kim, will mean that the Saenuri Party has suffered from the recent political scandals.
Voters will cast their ballots from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. at 148 polling stations in Hwaseong and Pohang. The National Election Commission will be broadcasting live the voting process, as part of efforts to ensure a fair election.