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Voters to cast ballots in largest-ever by-elections

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Published : 2014-07-29 21:05
Updated : 2014-07-29 21:29

Voters will take to polling stations in 15 constituencies across the country Wednesday for the largest-ever parliamentary by-elections, viewed by the parties as a pivotal opportunity to gain the upper hand.

In its final appeal to voters on Tuesday, the last day of campaigning, the ruling Saenuri Party accused the opposition parties of political collusion, while highlighting its drive for economic revival. 
Civic group members wage a campaign calling for participation in voting for Wednesday’s parliamentary by-elections on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

“If the Saenuri Party secures a stable majority in the parliament, (the party) can act as a lever (for supporting) the Park Geun-hye administration’s success,” Saenuri Party chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung said Tuesday. The ruling party currently holds 147 of the 300 National Assembly seats.

While Kim continued to tout the party’s connection to the president and potential role in rolling out economic stimulus measures, others honed in on the opposition bloc’s tactic of forming alliances.

“The opposition bloc’s collusion is the reason a pro-North Korean figure such as Lee Seok-ki was able to enter the parliament,” said Saenuri Party secretary-general Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun.

Lee, of the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party, is on trial on charges of plotting a revolt.

The UPP, from which the Justice Party split off, formed an alliance with the defunct Democratic Party in the 2012 general elections.

Meanwhile, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy highlighted the shortcomings of the Park administration.

“The elections will hold the government responsible for its incompetence displayed through the Sewol disaster, personnel management disaster and the investigation on Yoo Byung-eun,” NPAD cochairman Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo said Tuesday.

The government has been blamed for mishandling the April 16 ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing, while the president’s approval ratings have dropped following a series of unsuccessful nominations for high-level government posts.

The results of the by-elections are expected to impact a host of political heavyweights including former opposition leader Sohn Hak-kyu and the ruling party’s Lee Jung-hyun, former presidential secretary and key ally of President Park Geun-hye.

For Sohn, taking the Suwon-C constituency would further consolidate his position within the opposition bloc, while Lee taking Suncheong-Gokseong constituency in South Jeolla Province will deal a heavy blow to the NPAD.

As the campaigns reached fever pitch this week, both ruling and opposition parties did not refrain from hurling last-minute accusations at rival candidates.

NPAD floor leader Rep. Park Young-sun on Monday filed a complaint to the prosecutors’ office regarding Saenuri Party’s Kim Je-sik, accusing him of spreading false information about his rival Cho Han-ki.

During a televised debate among candidates for South Chungcheong Province’s Seosan-Taean constituency, Kim claimed that Cho was on trial for breaking election regulations. The Saenuri Party candidate also claimed that Cho was using illegal funds in a project commemorating the late President Roh Moo-hyun.

In Seoul’s Dongjak-B, meanwhile, Justice Party’s Roh Hoe-chan and his supporters have been accused of illegal campaign activities disguised as gathering petitions supporting the special bill concerning the Sewol ferry disaster.

According to Na’s aides, an opposition supporter is also attempting to undermine her image by falsely claiming to have been assaulted by campaign officials.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)