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Parties strive to turn early voting enthusiasm to their favor

 
(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

More than a quarter of all eligible voters in South Korea have already cast their votes in last week’s advance voting period. And parties are all out to turn the higher-than-expected voter enthusiasm to their favor in the lead up to Wednesday’s main voting.

Voter turnout in the two-day early voting Friday and Saturday reached a record high of 26.67 percent with 11.7 million voters, according to the National Election Commission.

The ruling Democratic Party interprets it as a sign of voters rallying behind the government’s efforts to win the virus fight. With the virus’ spread showing a clear sign of slowing, the liberal bloc has been enjoying an upward momentum in support ratings.

Party leader Lee Hae-chan said the party should secure over 150 parliamentary seats, about half of the total slots, in order to grant emergency disaster relief money to the people in a swift manner right after the elections.

“We (the Democratic Party) cannot do anything alone if we don’t win a majority. ... We cannot believe the United Future Party, which has been opposing every (COVID-19 relief) measure proposed by us,” Lee said while visiting an election management office to support the party’s candidate Park Soo-hyun, who is running in a constituency in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province.

Ballots to be cast on Election Day will decide the result, as voters from progressive and conservative camps seem to have equally taken part in the early voting taking place Friday and Saturday, he said.

Former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon, who runs in Seoul’s key constituency of Jongno, toured constituencies in Seoul and the adjacent metropolitan areas, where the party’s flagbearers are locked in tight races.

“In order to quickly eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic and quickly resolve the economic pain and social inconveniences, the government and the ruling party need parliamentary seats to work,” Lee said.

The main opposition United Future Party said conservative and centrist voters are consolidating behind the party to pass a judgement on President Moon Jae-in and it is showing in the higher voter turnout.

Kim Jong-in, chief of the party’s election committee, blasted President Moon, accusing him of dereliction of duty, and urged him to issue a presidential emergency order for a rescue package worth 100 trillion won ($82.5 billion).

“The central government is not doing its job that it ought to do even when the Gyeonggi Province governor and Seoul mayor are providing disaster relief funds to help their citizens,” Kim said during a meeting at the National Assembly on Sunday.

According to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the government has pledged to carry out a phased stimulus program worth 150 trillion won so far, including 32 trillion won for the recovery of real damage from the pandemic, 100 trillion won in aid for the stabilization of financial markets and 20 trillion won for the government’s disaster relief payments and funds to assist exporters and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Delivering the actual payments of those funds, in part, could take about a month, as the government has to submit a supplementary budget bill to finance the massive aid package to the National Assembly right after the general elections.

“The situation is similar to an economic situation that occurs due to a large-scale natural disaster. Can you act indeterminately when you are hit by a disaster? There is no way to understand the attitude of the government,” Kim said.

The government plans to submit a 7.1 trillion-won extra budget bill this week. Lawmakers have already approved an 11.7 trillion-won supplementary budget plan over the coronavirus.



By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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