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(LEAD) Preliminary voter turnout in parliamentary elections hovers below 60 pct

All Headlines 21:13 April 13, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more details in last 4 paras, photo)

SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) -- Just less than 60 percent of South Korean voters cast their ballots Wednesday to elect new lawmakers, the national election watchdog said.

More than 24.4 million out of over 42.1 million, or 58 percent, went to 13,837 polling stations across the country to elect a new 300-member National Assembly, the National Election Commission (NEC).

The preliminary voter turnout is higher than the previous general elections in 2012 when 54.2 percent was recorded, the NEC said. However, it is below 63.9 percent recorded in 1996.

The election watchdog said the official voter turnout will be available after vote-counting wraps up early Thursday.

Election officials attributed the higher-than-expected voter turnout to the highest voter turnout of an early voting that took place last week.

During the two-day early voting period from Friday to Saturday, 5.13 million voters, or 12.2 percent, cast their ballots at more than 3,000 polling stations.

"People's attention to politics was very high during the 19th general elections four years ago as it took place just before the presidential election," said an NEC official on the condition of customary anonymity, attributing to the effect of the early voting.

By region, South Jeolla Province saw the highest preliminary voter turnout of 63.7 percent, followed by the administrative city of Sejong, with 63.5 percent.

The southeastern industrial city of Daegu recorded the lowest voter turnout with 54.8 percent, trailed by the southern port city of Busan with 55.4 percent, the NEC said.

The capital city of Seoul and its surrounding areas, which are forecast to be closely contested, saw a preliminary voter turnout of 59.8 percent.

The early voting system, adopted in 2013 by-elections, is different from absentee voting in that it does not require voters to sign up in advance. Eligible voters can simply show up at a polling station during the pre-voting period and cast their ballots.

Election officials forecast that the voter turnout could reach 60 percent during the next parliamentary elections four years later if more people are aware of the early voting system.

khj@yna.co.kr
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