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(2nd LD) Rival parties seek to swing voters as preliminary voting begins

All Headlines 17:20 April 07, 2016

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SEOUL, April 7 (Yonhap) -- The ruling and opposition parties stepped up their campaigns on Thursday to win over undecided voters as the preliminary voting for the April 13 polls begins later this week.

South Koreans can begin casting their ballots during the preliminary voting on Friday and Saturday at 3,511 polling stations across the country, the National Election Commission (NEC) said.

Voters are required to carry a valid form of photo identification and visit a nearby polling station between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., the NEC said.

The NEC additionally set up polling stations at public facilities, such as the country's main gateway, Incheon International Airport, and two main train stations in central Seoul.

The commission first adopted the system during the April by-elections in 2013 as part of its effort to boost voter turnout.

Preliminary voting, meanwhile, has gained more importance as a recent survey showed that more than a quarter of the electorate has yet to choose a candidate for the parliamentary elections.

The poll released by Gallup Korea showed that between 24 and 27 percent of respondents said they were unsure which candidate or party they will support. This can translate into a large number of swing voters from both the conservative and liberal sides.

"Recent factional infighting in the Saenuri Party over nominating party candidates adversely affected voter sentiment," said Yoon Hee-wong, a political analyst at Opinion Live, a local consulting agency.

The party has been split between lawmakers loyal to President Park Geun-hye and non-mainstream lawmakers, and the feud intensified recently during the selection process for candidates for the election.

Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the Saenuri Party, acknowledged Thursday that the party lost the trust of many voters.

"The ruling party is in a state of crisis," said Kim Moo-sung during the party's emergency meeting, noting that many supporters have turned away.

Kim further vowed that the party will focus its agenda on regaining the people's trust, saying that Saenuri lawmakers will only serve the people.

Yoon added that many liberal voters are also undecided due to the recent feud within the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, which led to the creation of the splinter People's Party.

The Minjoo Party, which seems to struggle even in Honam, the southwestern region that is the political turf of the opposition party, reached out for help to a former veteran lawmaker.

Earlier on Thursday, Kim Chong-in, the party's interim chairman, requested that Sohn Hak-kyu, a former leader of the party that has become the Minjoo Party and has since retired from the local politics, drum up support for the opposition.

In response, Sohn, the former four-term lawmaker, said he would "consider before giving the answer."

Ahn Cheol-soo, co-chairman of the People's Party, also initially planned to meet Sohn, apparently in an aim to seek his help.

khj@yna.co.kr
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