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(LEAD) Ruling Saenuri Party expected to win majority in April 13 ballot: polls

All Headlines 16:13 April 10, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; UPDATES with more details in paras 2, 5; ADDS assessment by parties in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Saenuri Party is expected to win a "comfortable" majority in the upcoming general elections, although it may lose some seats in its traditional strongholds to independents, polls showed Sunday.

The surveys conducted by four local pollsters, including Gallup Korea, last week showed Saenuri expected to win between 157 to 175 seats in the 300-member unicameral National Assembly.

Voters go to the polls on Wednesday to pick the lawmakers who will serve a four year term.

The latest findings showed the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea will likely secure 83-100 seats, with the splinter People's Party winning 28-32 seats on the strong backing of the voters in the Jeolla region in the southeastern part of the country. If the People's Party wins more than 20 seats, it can form a negotiating bloc in parliament.

The forecast showed almost no change from poll results released by Yonhap News Agency on March 13 when Saenuri was expected to win 155-175 seats, but numbers for Minjoo fell while People's Party's prospects improved.

Last month's polls showed the main opposition party likely to secure 95-110 seats, with the People's Party getting 10-20 seats.

Pollster said that while the ruling party will probably win a majority, there is a chance that more than 10 independents will be elected.

"With many having left Saenuri after failing to win party tickets, their return will likely generate attention after the elections," one polling official said. Saenuri, in particular, is keeping close tabs on the election outcome in Daegu, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, that had been its power base for generations. At present, former Saenuri whip Yoo Seung-min is expected to win at the polls despite running as an independent.

The source then said if the Minjoo party fails to secure less than 100 seats, it will have to concede failure, with the political landscape becoming a three-way situation.

Others said that while the People's Party popularity has been on the rise, it may not be able to win too many seats outside of the Jeolla region.

"With the exception of party chairman Ahn Cheol-soo's constituency in Nowon, Seoul, the People's Party may not be able to pick up seats outside of Jeolla," a political watcher estimated.

Of the 122 seat up for grabs in Seoul and the surrounding regions of Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, Saenuri is expected to win 57-67, with 52-61 expected for the Minjoo Party.

Experts, however, said that in the Seoul and surrounding regions, the high percentage of undecided voters can change the outcome of the elections by as much as 15 seats, with the turnout of people in their 20-30s and those over 60 to decide which party wins and which losses.

Younger people generally tend to favor liberal parties like the Minjoo Party, while the older generation has been staunch loyalists of the conservative Saenuri Party.

Related to the survey, each party released their own assessment of the election outcome.

Saenuri said that while conditions have improved in Seoul, it will be hard pressed to win 145 seats in the polls. The Minjoo Party said due to the division of votes, it may win just 100 seats.

The People's Party, on the other hand, said it could win up to 40 seats if the current upswing in popularity continues.

"Saenuri seems to be down playing how many seats it could win to get more of its supporters to vote on Wednesday, while Minjoo is also trying to fuel concerns that voting for the People's Party would result in the oppositions defeat," a source said. In the case of the People's Party, it seems to be inflating figures to attract more liberal voters who have yet to decide on which candidate to vote for, he said.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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