As two-day early voting period for the June 13 local elections kicked off on Friday, citizens in 12 regions are also casting additional votes for their parliamentary representatives.
The results of the by-elections could affect the status of political parties at the National Assembly. Local polls forecast the ruling Democratic Party of Korea to keep its position as the biggest negotiating bloc, as they estimate it has a sweeping lead in all 11 regions where they have fielded a candidate -- even in regions that are often perceived as conservative strongholds.
The parliamentary by-elections are taking place in 12 regions across the nation, including Nowon-C and Songpa-B in Seoul; Haeundae-B in Busan; Namdong-A in Incheon; Seogu-A in Gwangju, Bukgu in Ulsan; Danyang in Jecheon in North Chungcheong Province, and Cheonan-A and -B in South Chungcheong Province; Yeongam, Muan and Sinan in South Jeolla Province; Gimcheon in North Gyeongsang Province; and Gimhae-B in South Gyeongsang Province.
According to a joint poll conducted by three local broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS from June 1 to 3, the ruling party was expected to win 11 seats. In Gimcheon, an independent candidate polled top by a slight margin against the main opposition Liberty Korea Party.
While it is the second-biggest party in the parliament, the conservative Liberty Korea Party, appears to be struggling. Party chief Hong Joon-pyo criticized the polls as “inaccurate.” He maintained that there were “shy” conservative voters that have not been reflected in the polls.
In Seoul’s Songpa District-B, Choi Jae-sung of ruling Democratic Party garnered a 39.2 percent approval rate, while Bae Hyun-jin of Liberty Korea Party polled at 18.4 percent and Park Jong-jin of center-right Bareunmirae Party followed with 6.4 percent.
As for Haeundae-B of Busan, the country’s second-largest city and traditionally a conservative bastion, Yoon Jun-ho of Democratic Party led the poll with 35.7 percent, against Kim Dae-sik of the Liberty Korea Party, who posted at 16.3 percent.
Gimcheon City was formerly represented by Lee Cheol-woo of Liberty Korea Party. But after Lee resigned to announce his bid at North Gyeongsang Provincial governor position, an independent candidate Choi Dae-won has been putting up a close fight against former finance vice minister Song Eon-seok from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party. In the poll, Choi led the race with 29.1 percent while Song followed at 22.8 percent.
Currently, the ruling Democratic Party holds 118 seats at the National Assembly while the opposition Liberty Korea Party has 113 seats. As the biggest party traditionally gets to nominate its member for National Assembly Speaker post, the chances are high for another Assembly speaker to be nominated from the ruling party. The seat has been left vacant after the term ended for National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun on May 29.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org