Opposition party struggles to shore up support for by-elections

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jul 20, 2014 - 21:42
  • Updated : Jul 21, 2014 - 10:35
The opposition on Sunday said it faced a difficult fight in the July 30 by-elections as ominous opinion surveys and allegations against a key candidate threatened to damage its public image.

“It will be hard for our candidates to score big against the Saenuri Party (in the elections),” main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy Rep. Joo Seung-yong said Sunday.

Many of the constituencies up for grabs in the coming polls are regions where Saenuri candidates have won many times, Joo added.

Fresh allegations against a big-name NPAD candidate and recent opinion surveys suggested the ruling Saenuri Party may win big in the coming by-elections.
Election officials hang placards urging voters to participate in the July 30 parliamentary by-elections near Isu subway station in southern Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap)

Last week, Saenuri officials accused Kwon Eun-hee ― the NPAD candidate running in Gwangju ― of misreporting her husband’s wealth to the National Election Commission.

A candidate’s misreporting of wealth by is considered a death-blow in South Korean elections because of long-standing stereotypes of politicians as corrupt money-grubbers.

Kwon and the NPAD denied the allegations.

“(Kwon) has not violated any election law,” Joo said. “It was a simply an honest mistake.”

Although Kwon is nevertheless expected to win in Gwangju ― a traditionally left-leaning region where liberal parties such as the NPAD score high ― the allegations threaten to damage the opposition’s chances in swing regions, such as Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, because of Kwon’s public reputation as a conscientious whistleblower.

Kwon is a former policewoman who raised allegations about senior police officials condoning the National Intelligence Service’s alleged election meddling scandal during the 2012 presidential elections.

Recent data showed the NPAD faced an uphill battle amid the accusations against Kwon.

According to a Gallup Korea tally taken last week, the NPAD’s national approval ratings fell to 26 percent from its already mediocre 31 percent. The Saenuri Party held a comfortable lead at 43 percent. The tally surveyed 1,023 randomly selected adults nationwide.

Public polls comparing NPAD and Saenuri candidates also showed governing party candidates holding big leads. In Seoul’s Dongjak-B constituency, 43.2 percent of surveyed voters supported Saenuri parliamentary hopeful Na Kyung-won. Only 15 percent and 12.8 percent of those tallied supported NPAD candidate Ki Dong-min and minor opposition candidate Roh Hoi-chan.

In Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, where three assembly seats are to be contested, the governing party held leads. Even Sohn Hak-kyu, a former four-term lawmaker running in Suwon under the NPAD banner, is struggling against Saenuri rookie politician Kim Yong-nam.

Sohn held 34 percent and Kim 36 percent in a recent survey conducted by Macromillembrain, an opinion surveyor.

Sohn is a former presidential candidate and governor of Gyeonggi Province.

Still other factors may damage the NPAD.

“We’re anticipating a low voter turnout to hurt us as well,” NPAD Rep. Joo said.

Young voters, traditionally considered to be opposition supporters, are expected to be on vacation on July 30. Summer vacation season is at its peak in late July in South Korea.

Fifteen parliamentary seats are on the line in the July 30 elections. The Saenuri Party needs to win only four spots to maintain its majority in the 300-seat National Assembly.

By Jeong Hunny (