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Political parties face uphill struggle to win seats in general election: poll

All News 16:05 March 13, 2016

SEOUL, March 13 (Yonhap) -- Political parties face an uphill struggle to win over voters in next month's parliamentary race with many pollsters expecting disappointing results for both the ruling and opposition, local pundits said Sunday.

Three local pollsters contacted by Yonhap News Agency said that targets set by the ruling Saenuri Party as well as the two largest opposition parties will not likely be met.

They said that how well parties handle their internal bickering over who will win tickets to run for the April 13 election and the forming of alliances, or an outright merger in the case of the opposition bloc, will effectively decide how many seats each party will secure.

The Saenuri Party initially aimed to win over 180 seats out of 300 up for grabs. The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea said it could win 130 seats, while the minor People's Party said it will strive to get at least 20 lawmakers into parliament.

At present, the Saenuri Party controls 157 seats in the National Assembly, compared with 107 seats held by the main opposition Minjoo Party. The People's Party, led by entrepreneur-turned politician, Ahn Cheol-soo controls only 19 seats,

Hankook Research said while many political observers said that the splitting up of the opposition would allow Saenuri to win more than 180 seats, the serious infighting between the pro-president faction and its opponents is hurting the party's chances.

"Usually a splitting up of votes would help the ruling party, but this may not be the case this time around," a pollster said.

Others, who declined to be identified, also said while Saenuri will win a majority, its victories will hover around 167 to 173 seats, shy of its target.

The 180 seats is critical for the party because with this number of lawmakers, Saenuri can override the National Assembly Advancement Law. The law effectively blocks passage of laws unless 60 percent of lawmakers agree to the passage.

In regards to the main opposition party, very few pollsters said that 130 seats is an unattainable goal especially if it fails to form an alliance with the People's Party.

"The key battles for the Minjoo Party will be fought in Seoul and the surrounding areas where a divided opposition can cause it to lose tightly contested districts," an insider said.

It said depending on how well the main opposition wins over voters, it may get 95 to 110 seats.

Local political watchers then said the People's Party may not be able to win 20 seats, which will bar it from forming a negotiation bloc in parliament. The progressive Justice Party may hold onto its current five seats or add one more.

"In the last general election even when there was no serious division, the total seats won by various opposition parties stood at around 140, so it is realistic to think that numbers will fall down to around 130 this time around," one expert, who followed elections, argued.

Another political watcher said that while it is not likely that a merger between the Minjoo and People's Party will happen, individual candidates may opt to form loose alliances to prevent opposition leaning votes from being split up.

"With the People's Party not doing as well as expected in Seoul and other nearby areas, some sort of arrangement may be possible between candidates," a source predicted.


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