Parties promise change in low-key campaigns

By Korea Herald

Saenuri on defensive amid negative voter sentiment over Sewol

  • Published : May 21, 2014 - 20:53
  • Updated : May 21, 2014 - 21:21
Parties are to begin campaigning for the June 4 local elections Thursday, but their efforts are likely to be toned down compared to previous campaigns.

Both the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy consider the upcoming elections, which will select 3,952 local administrative and legislative officials, as an opportunity to gain the upper hand.

This year’s election campaigns, however, are to be low-key in light of the April 16 ferry disaster that caused nearly 300 confirmed deaths.

Candidates from both sides have promised subdued campaigns.

The accident also shifted the focus of the parties’ campaigns on to safety issues. Candidates on both sides have rolled out one safety-related pledge after another in the hopes of drawing the support from the agitated public. 
Officials prepare the campaign posters for the June 4 local elections at the National Election Commission in Seoul on Wednesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

In addition, Sewol-related developments have undermined the ruling party’s position. As critics blame policymakers and related ministries for mishandling the rescue operations, the ruling party is also in a defensive mode due to its association with the Park Geun-hye administration.

The main opposition is hoping to cash in on the sentiment to draw voters away from the conservatives to achieve what it sees as “passing judgment” on the administration.

“The task of forming competent and responsible local governments has become all the more important, as the incompetence and irresponsibility of the Park Geun-hye administration and the central government has been confirmed,” NPAD cochairman Rep. Kim Han-gil said.

Cochairman Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo also highlighted the issue, offering an apology for “failing to sufficiently criticize and contain the ruling party and the government.”

Aware of a widespread discontent directed at the party, the Saenuri Party is to concentrate on making reparations as its runners in key regions are lagging behind NPAD rivals.

“Asking for the people’s forgiveness and appealing the public to place their trust in the Saenuri Party and the Park Geun-hye administration one last time is the one way (the party) can engage (the elections),” said Rep. Suh Chung-won, a key pro-Park figure and cochair of the election committee.

By Choi He-suk (