The electorate in the Bundang B district said no to the status quo and, instead, endorsed a call for change when it elected Sohn Hak-kyu, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, in the April 27 parliamentary by-election. Of great concern to the conservative ruling party and the liberal opposition party is whether the electoral outcome will prove to be a tempest in a teacup or a prelude to the parliamentary and presidential elections next year.
Sohn’s election must have been shocking to the ruling Grand National Party. In previous elections, its candidates had been virtually assured of a win at the moment of nomination in Bundang B because the electorate in the district never failed to vote conservative. Not this time. Well-to-do and white-collar voters turned their back on the ruling conservative party. They picked Sohn, who had gambled his political career when he decided to run in the district in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.
In his campaign, Sohn called on the Bundang B electorate to jump-start a change for the entire nation, saying it was not just the lower class but the middle class that was worse off now than before. But his opponent appealed to voters to help him prevent “leftists” from taking power in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The electorate got their unmistakable message across to the political community when it elected Sohn.
White-collar workers are assumed to have held sway over the electoral outcome, although a detailed analysis of voters is needed to confirm it. The voting rates spiked during the morning and evening rush hours ― an indication that a large number of white-collar workers were at the polls. Their voting helped raise the total turnout to 49.1 percent of the eligible voters, up 3.9 percentage points from the 2008 general elections.
What the rival political parties will have to do now is develop strategies for the main events ― the parliamentary and presidential elections, respectively scheduled for April and December next year. The last thing the opposition party can afford to do is read too much into the Bundang B electorate’s verdict and become complacent. What the ruling party needs to do immediately is damage control, before making a fresh start.