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Seoul races in dead heat: polls

Rivals fast regaining support in traditional strongholds after surveillance scandal


The upcoming parliamentary election is looking increasingly like a toss-up, even as rival political parties quickly consolidate their traditional support base after an explosive political scandal.

With just one week to go before the election, opinion polls still put the distance between rivals ― the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party ― within the margin of error, while the bloc of undecided voters is shrinking rapidly.

In one poll released Tuesday, candidates from Saenuri and the opposition alliance were deadlocked in 11 races in Seoul, including one in Jongno, central Seoul.

In the district, the DUP’s Chung Sye-kyun led Saenuri’s Hong Sa-duk by a margin of 3.9 percentage points. Chung, a former DUP leader, garnered 37.1 percent support against Hong’s 33.2 percent.

The KBS/MBC/SBS poll looked into only 21 of the 48 races taking place in Seoul.

Political analysts say races in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi Province may prove decisive as the election is shaping up to be one of the closest ever.

The greater capital area, as it is free from the country’s regionally-biased voting patterns, offers a gauge of the broader voter sentiment, they said.

Park Sun-sook, the DUP’s secretary general, gave the same assessment.

“Just like today’s weather, which confused us whether we’re in winter or spring, the races are so tight, giving us little clue,” she told reporters at the National Assembly in Seoul.

“I see the public’s wanting to pass judgment on the incumbent administration and the ruling party. But at the same time I sense a strong resistance to prevent it from happening.”

Many of the party’s candidates are within the margin of error apart from their Saenuri rivals, the politician added.

On April 11, Koreans will pick 300 lawmakers ― 246 directly from precincts and another 54 through proportional representation.

The DUP has formed an alliance with smaller Unified Progressive Party to eject the Saenuri Party from power and keep the voter sentiment running positive into the presidential race later in the year.

It is trying to frame the poll as a chance to deliver the public’s verdict on conservative President Lee Myung-bak and his Saenuri Party for its mismanagement and corruption. The latest scandal of government official spying on civilians is an example of the current administration’s infringing on democracy, it claims.

The Saenuri Party, for its part, is striving to preserve its control of the single-chamber National Assembly, claiming that the DUP-UPP alliance threatens national interests, opposing the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and other major national projects.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)
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