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(LEAD) Official campaign for presidential vote kicks off with 15 contenders

All News 10:09 April 17, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS 3rd para to clarify 15 marks the record number of candidates in a "presidential" election; UPDATES with additional information in paras 5-6; ADDS photos)

SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- The official electioneering period for the country's upcoming presidential election began Monday with 15 hopefuls vying for the top elected office.

The 22-day campaign period will end one day before the May 9 election, according to the National Election Commission.

A total of 15 candidates registered to run for the election over the weekend, matching the record number of presidential candidates in a presidential election set in 2007.

The image shows supporters and campaigners of five major candidates for the upcoming presidential election holding street campaigns on April 17, 2017, when the 22-day official campaigning period for the election began. (Yonhap)

They include front-runner Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party, also the single largest party in the country's unicameral parliament.

Others include Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-left People's Party, Hong Joon-pyo of the former ruling Liberty Korea Party, Rep. Yoo Seong-min of the conservative Bareun Party and Rep. Sim Sang-jeung of the progressive Justice Party.

One candidate is running independent while the other nine are candidates of political parties that currently hold no parliamentary seats.

Ahn Cheol-soo (green shirt), the presidential candidate of the center-left People's Party, stages a street campaign with his supporters and party officials in Seoul's downtown Gwanghwamun area on April 17, 2017, the first day of a 22-day campaigning period for the upcoming presidential election. (Yonhap)

The election, however, is increasingly seen as a two-way race between two front-runners -- Moon and Ahn -- who together have garnered more than 80 percent of all votes in most recent polls.

With the start of the official electioneering period, each candidate may place up to 3,400 street banners and 93,000 posters throughout the nation, promoting their runs for the presidency, and mail up to 23 million handouts to households, the election watchdog said.

They may also purchase up to 30 one-minute TV commercial spots, along with up to 70 newspaper advertisement sections each.

Election campaigners of at least two different presidential candidates, distinguished by the different colors of their jackets, stage a street campaign in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, on April 17, 2017, while a large street banner of Moon Jae-in, the presidential candidate of the liberal Democratic Party, hangs over their heads. (Yonhap)

All such activities may cost tens of billions of won and must be paid for by the candidates or their political parties, if they have one.

The NEC has said each candidate may spend up to 50.9 billion won (US$44.57 million) during their official campaign.

The election watchdog will fully refund the money, as long as they are proven legitimate and if the candidate wins more than 15 percent of all eligible votes cast in the upcoming election.

Candidates with less than 15 percent but more than 10 percent of all votes will be reimbursed 50 percent of their costs, while those with less than 10 percent will be reimbursed none.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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