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(News Focus) Parliamentary election result to realign rival parties

All News 10:02 April 14, 2016

By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, April 14 (Yonhap) -- The 2016 parliamentary elections results highlighted the dynamic nature of South Korean politics as some candidates solidified their images as competent presidential candidates while several veteran politicians find themselves sidestepped from contention.

In Seoul's Nowon district, Ahn Cheol-soo, co-chairman of the splinter People's Party and a potential presidential hopeful, defeated rival Lee Jun-seok of the ruling Saenuri Party with 52 percent of the vote against his rivals 31 percent, according to the National Election Commission (NEC) that overseas ballots.

Wednesday's polls carried an extra burden for the software mogul and his newly launched party as the polls were a crucial test for his political ambitions down the line, in next December's presidential election.

South Koreans will go to the polls in December 2017 to elect a new leader to succeed President Park Geun-hye whose single five-year term ends in early 2018. By law, she cannot seek re-election.

"I once again want to thank the people of Nowon," Ahn said, saying that he will pay back by improving livelihoods and seeing better politics.

The party also grabbed a total of 38 seats, far more than 20 which allows the party to form a parliamentary negotiation bloc.

Meanwhile, it was a total defeat for Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, although he managed to obtain his sixth parliamentary seat by beating Kim Bi-oh of the Minjoo Party in the southern port city of Busan.

The Saenuri Party vowed to win a parliamentary majority, but it has to settle for just 122 seats, after it has suffered a blow due to an internal feud over the candidate nomination process.

The party's victory would have been a boon for Kim's presidential chances, but its defeat has raised doubts about his leadership and appeal as a presidential contender. The lawmaker, who had been at the center of controversy offered to step down as chairman on Thursday following the polls.

Moreover, the latest poll showed that 12.9 percent of people supported Kim in a potential presidential race, even behind former Seoul mayor Oh Se-hoon of the Saenuri Party, according to the NEC.

The poll also showed 20.7 percent of people supported Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the Minjoo Party, in a potential presidential. Ahn is trailing behind with only 10 percent of support in the poll, although this may change with the election results.

In Jongno district in central Seoul, Oh lost to Chung Sye-kyun of the Minjoo Party, who garnered more than 50 percent of the vote, said the NEC.

"I will take the time of self-reflection and deeply examine myself," said Oh, noting that the voters are still angry at him for giving up his mayorship years ago.

Meanwhile, Chung, who will take his sixth parliamentary seat, newly emerged as a new potential presidential hopeful from the liberal bloc by defeating Oh in Jongno, which is considered one of the most crucial electorates in Seoul.

As for Moon, it is neither a victory nor a failure.

The party successfully grabbed 123 seats, much higher than its initial goal and even managed to take three districts of wealthy Gangnam in southern Seoul, a traditional stronghold for the ruling party.

However, the party was able to take victory in only three out of 28 electorates in Honam, referring to the southwestern region that has traditionally been a bastion of support for liberal parties like Minjoo.

The People's Party, on the other hand, took a sweeping victory in the region by taking 23 Honam seats.

Moreover, Moon earlier promised that he will retire from politics and not participate in the presidential elections if the party losses support from its home turf of the Honam.

Kim Chong-in, interim chairman of Minjoo, secured his fifth parliamentary term by taking the second spot in the liberal party's 47-member proportional representative seat lineup.

Of 300 lawmakers, with 253 of them to be selected through direct elections and the remaining 47 proportional representation seats to be allocated to parties according to the numbers of votes that they receive overall.

Kim is the first lawmaker to be elected five times on a proportional ticket.

Among the distinguishable winners is Suh Chung-won, who managed to obtain his eighth parliamentary seat after taking the victory in an electorate in Hwaseong, just south of Seoul.

Suh is most likely to be elected a new parliamentary speaker, succeeding National Assembly Speaker Chung Eui-hwa.

Meanwhile, a number of political heavyweights from both the ruling and opposition parties failed to enter the 20th National Assembly.

Rep. Rhee In-je, a senior member of the Saenuri party and a six-term lawmaker, lost to Kim Jong-min of the Minjoo Party in a closely contested race in the Nonsan electorate in the central region of South Chungcheong Province.

Veteran lawmaker Rep. Lee Jae-oh also failed in his sixth bid as an independent in Eunpyong district in Seoul.

Lee, a five-term lawmaker and considered one of the non-mainstream members of the Saenuri Party, quit the party after failing to win a nomination,

Hwang Woo-yea, a five-term lawmaker and former education minister, also failed to grab his seat in Incheon, west of Seoul, against Shin Dong-keun of the Minjoo Party.


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