The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy took nine of the 17 metropolitan mayoral and gubernatorial races in Wednesday’s local elections, as the ruling Saenuri Party fared better than expected taking eight.
Although the NPAD fared well, the main opposition is not home free, with mixed exit poll figures indicating that its strategy of using the local elections to “pass judgment” on the Park Geun-hye administration is likely to lose steam.
The elections were seen as a referendum for the administration in the wake of the April 16 ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing. The government has been sharply criticized for its poor handling of the accident.
|Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and his wife Kang Nan-hee wave hands to his supporters after winning reelection on Thursday morning. (Yonhap)|
Among the NPAD’s victories, Park Won-soon took Seoul beating Saenuri Party’s candidate Chung Mong-joon with a comfortable lead of over 12 percentage points to win his second term.
The NPAD also took the Chungcheong provinces, which traditionally have conservative tendencies, and succeeded in defending Gwangju against a former colleague, despite earlier worries.
The ruling party, which went into the local elections with a decreased ratings, won some of the more hotly contested areas.
Saenuri Party’s Nam Kyung-pil, Suh Byung-soo and Yoo Jeong-bok respectively prevailed in Gyeonggi Province, Busan and Incheon. All three races were seen as being very close contests, and the Saenuri Party figures’ wins were clinched with less than 1 percentage point margins.
Buoyed by the highest-ever early voting rate, this year’s local elections are to see the highest voter participation since the first local elections were held in 1995. As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, the National Election Commission placed the voting rate at 56.8 percent, the highest since 1998.
Voting took place at 13,665 polling stations across the country, with each voter casting seven ballots to select 3,952 chiefs and legislators for metropolitan, provincial and lower-level administrative offices. Wednesday’s election also saw the selection of new education superintendents for the 17 metropolitan cities and provinces.
In lower level administrative offices, the conservatives recorded a sweeping victory.
As of 8 a.m., Saenuri Party figures were seen as being close to taking 124 of the 224 lower-level administration chiefs’ posts contested on Wednesday. In comparison, NPAD figures had or neared victory in 72 areas.
The races for metropolitan and provincial educational chiefs’ posts, in contrast, was a resounding victory for the progressives. Although educational superintendent candidates are not party-nominated, they are divided by progressive and conservative ideologies.
Of the 17 education superintendents’ posts, 13 were taken by progressives.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)