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Ruling party achieves landslide win in local elections

Conservative bloc clinches 12 out of 17 metropolitan mayoral and provincial gubernatorial elections

Officials with the ruling People Power Party post stickers printed with
Officials with the ruling People Power Party post stickers printed with "elected" signs at the party`s situation room inside the National Assembly Library in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Wednesday after seeing exit poll results and counted ballots strongly favoring its candidates in key regions. (Joint Press Corps)
South Korea’s ruling People Power Party achieved a landslide victory in the local elections held Wednesday, as its candidates prevailed in most of the major cities and provinces to add support to the recently inaugurated Yoon Suk-yeol administration.

According to the National Election Commission’s data, the ruling party won 12 out of 17 metropolitan mayoral and provincial gubernatorial elections, winning a majority for the first time since 2006 when its predecessor, the Grand National Party, won 12 out of 16 major administrative posts.

The People Power Party prevailed in the mayoral elections of Seoul, Incheon, Daejeon, Sejong, Daegu, Ulsan and Busan, and its candidates also turned out victorious for the gubernatorial elections of Gangwon, North Chungcheong, South Chungcheong, North Gyeongsang and South Gyeongsang provinces.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon of the People Power Party won 59.05 percent in votes to surpass Song Young-gil of the Democratic Party by 19.82 percentage points. Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon with the ruling party won over his Democratic Party rival Byun Seong-wan by 34.13 percentage points in votes.

The ruling party turned out victorious in the Daejeon mayoral election by 2.39 percentage points, and the margin of difference stood at 5.67 percentage points for the mayoral race in Sejong.

The Democratic Party succeeded in winning only the Gyeonggi Province gubernatorial election, outside its traditional stronghold of North Jeolla, South Jeolla and Jeju provinces as well as Gwangju.

The party’s flagbearer Kim Dong-yeon won the Gyeonggi Province gubernatorial election against Kim Eun-hye of the People Power Party merely by 0.15 percentage points after ballots were counted well onto Thursday morning.

Exit poll results from terrestrial broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS released at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday had favored the conservative party to win by a landslide, predicting the party to win 10 out of 17 metropolitan mayoral and provincial gubernatorial elections.

The People Power Party was widely predicted to bolster its power in the local elections from early on. After the party won the presidential election in March, it was expected to continue riding on the momentum of victory into the June 1 elections, less than a month since Yoon took office on May 10.

“We expected us to win the elections, but this is beyond our expectations,” Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader of the People Power Party, told reporters after exit poll results were announced.

“Only 20 days have passed since the Yoon Suk-yeol government kicked off, and we believe these results reflect voters’ belief that they should show support for the People Power Party in the local elections for the new government to successfully carry out its agenda over the next five years.”

The Democratic Party was facing a steep uphill battle against the People Power Party, as many voters were seen to be disappointed the liberal faction following a series of sexual misconduct scandals and a continued internal power struggle.

Negative public opinion on the five-year term of the previous Moon Jae-in administration also contributed to the liberal party’s crushing defeat.

Main voting took place at 14,465 polling stations across the country from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday for 44.3 million eligible voters. COVID-19 patients and those under quarantine were given from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to cast their votes.

Although the local elections saw a promising early voting turnout over the weekend, the aggregate turnout was much lower than expected, marking one of the lowest rates seen for any local elections.

Two-day early voting for the local elections that ran until Saturday ended with a turnout of 20.62 percent, as more than 9.13 million voters cast their ballots. It was the highest early turnout reached in local elections and the fourth highest for any nationwide election in South Korea.

But the National Election Commission announced the tentative voter turnout for the Wednesday elections at 50.9 percent, 9.3 percentage points lower than 60.2 percent turnout reached in the previous 2018 local elections.

The latest figure is the second-lowest voter turnout recorded in South Korea’s local elections history, coming behind 48.9 percent in the third ever local elections held in 2002.

South Jeolla Province recorded the highest turnout of 58.5 percent among 17 metropolitan cities and provinces, while its neighboring city Gwangju recorded the lowest figure at 37.7 percent.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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