Parties are beginning the last phase of their campaigns before the June 4 elections as a two-day period of early voting kicks off on Friday.
During the two-day period, eligible voters are able to cast their ballots at polling stations across the country. The parties consider that this year’s early voting will have a significant impact on the elections.
Participation is the local elections is typically low, and the voter turnout this year is expected to be even lower due to the April 16 ferry disaster. The long weekend that follows the election day is also considered likely to bring down the voting rate.
Mindful of the ferry accident cutting its approval ratings, the ruling Saenuri Party is to begin Friday with its leadership participating in early voting at a polling station near the National Assembly.
The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, which draws bigger support from younger voters than the ruling party, is placing greater emphasis on the early voting.
The party has conducted a campaign on social media and text messages to encourage participation in the early voting. The NPAD has also engaged its youth and university student committees to draw young voters to polling stations.
As the early voting begins, the ban on the release of opinion poll results ― aimed at blocking the unfair impact on voter decisions ― went into effect Thursday. The surveys conducted so far suggest that there will be close races in key regions, with the exception of Seoul.
Incumbent Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon is seen as having a comfortable lead over his Saenuri Party rival Chung Mong-joon.
As for the Gyeonggi Province governor election, surveys have placed the Saenuri Party’s Nam Kyung-pil in the lead. Unlike Park, however, Nam’s lead fell within the margin of error.
Other key elections, including those for mayor in Busan and Incheon, are likely to remain neck-and-neck to the last minute.
Voters in Busan, a traditionally conservative city, appear to be leaning toward independent Oh Keo-don, with surveys giving him a small lead over Saenuri Party’s Suh Byung-soo. Although Oh currently has no party affiliation, he represents the progressive bloc after he pulled off a deal with the NPAD candidate.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)