The ruling Saenuri Party began the last day of the campaign period in Busan ― a key conservative stronghold ― where its candidate Suh Byung-soo is in a neck-and-neck race with independent Oh Keo-don.
The ruling party appealed to the public saying that if its candidates are elected President Park Geun-hye will be the support she needs to achieve the goals her administration has set for itself.
“What can the president trust in if (the Saenuri Party) loses in the local elections? Please think of President Park and come together to make sure Suh is elected,” Saenuri Party floor leader and chief of election committee Rep. Lee Wan-koo said.
“(The party) plans to reform and innovate the country for the safety of the people. The party must win the local elections to enable the president to reform the nation during the remainder of her term.”
From Busan, the ruling party leaders went on to Daegu, another conservative city, and on to Daejeon and Seoul.
While the ruling party struggles in Busan, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy is facing a tough battle in its own stronghold of Gwangju.
Surveys showed that NPAD candidate Yoon Jang-hyun is in a tight race with Kang Woon-tae, who left the party in protest of Yoon’s nomination.
The party, however, concentrated on Seoul and Gyeonggi Province in the final day of campaigning.
In a joint statement, NPAD cochairmen Reps. Ahn Cheol-soo and Kim Han-gil promised change, apologizing for the Sewol ferry disaster, which the main opposition has been focusing on to highlight the faults of the government and the ruling party.
“We sincerely apologize to the people and the bereaved families because we know the incredible incompetence and faults of the government,” Kim and Ahn said in Seoul.
While the two main parties compete to attract voters, the withdrawal of candidates of the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party has risen as a critical factor in deciding the outcomes in closely contested areas. Although the UPP candidates never posed a significant challenge to rivals from the larger parties, their resignations have raised alarm for the ruling party.
So far, UPP candidates for Gyeonggi Province governor, Ulsan and Busan mayors have folded their campaigns, saying that they were stepping down to help keep Saenuri Party candidates out of office.
The resignations sparked vehement criticism from the ruling party, while it remains unclear whether NPAD candidates would benefit from the development.
“With UPP candidates resigning across the country, the UPP and the NPAD are joining hands just as they did in the previous presidential and general elections,” Rep. Lee Sang-il of the Saenuri Party said. “I do not doubt that the voters will judge the opposition bloc that engages in collusion.”
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com)