SEOUL, April 14 (Yonhap) -- Political parties focused on campaigns in the toughest battlegrounds of Seoul and the surrounding province Tuesday, the last day of the official electioneering for this week's parliamentary polls.
South Korea will hold the quadrennial parliamentary elections Wednesday to fill the 300-seat unicameral National Assembly at a time when it is fighting COVID-19.
Up for grabs will be 253 directly elected seats and 47 proportional representation (PR) slots as voters will be allowed to cast two ballots -- for a candidate and a political party.
The upcoming elections are widely seen as a vote of confidence for President Moon Jae-in, who is in his third year in office.
On the last day of the 13-day campaign period, rival political parties ramped up efforts to appeal to voters in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, where 121 directly elected seats are available.
A high-profile race is expected between former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon of the ruling party and Hwang Kyo-ahn, chief of the main opposition party, who are running in the Jongno district in central Seoul. Both are regarded as potential presidential candidates.
The ruling Democratic Party (DP) has urged voters to support the government's fight against the new coronavirus and its efforts to minimize the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The liberal party will call on voters to let it secure at least 145 seats to help the country overcome the pandemic and manage state affairs stably.
"A neck-and-neck race may be anticipated in around 70 constituencies in Seoul and the adjacent areas," DP leader Lee Hae-chan said at a party meeting Monday.
"I ask voters to come to polling stations Wednesday to support the DP and the Platform Party so the National Assembly can tide over the COVID-19 and economic crisis with the Moon government," Lee said, referring to the DP's affiliate party that only targets PR slots.
The main opposition United Future Party (UFP) will urge its supporters to cast ballots for the party to prevent the DP from securing a majority of the seats and the ruling bloc from taking 180 slots.
If the ruling party and other liberal parties win 180 seats, they will be able to pass most bills at parliament, regardless of opposition by the UFP.
The UFP has stressed the importance of judging the Moon administration, citing policy failures to prop up the economy and the need to deter the government's attempt to save former Justice Minister Cho Kuk from a major political scandal.
Minor parties, including the Party for People's Livelihoods and the progressive Justice Party, highlighted the need to keep the two biggest parties in check as an alternative political force.
Smaller parties, in particular, condemned the DP and the UFP for creating satellite sister parties that only target PR seats, saying the move undermines the intent of the newly introduced PR system.
The National Assembly passed an electoral reform bill in December that calls for adopting a mixed-member PR scheme. The new system could work favorably for minor parties as the method of distributing PR seats will better reflect votes cast for parties.
The general elections will be held from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at 14,330 polling stations across the nation.
The longest-ever ballots of 48.1 centimeters will be used for PR voting as the number of parties targeting the slots reached a record 35. The ballots will be counted manually for the first time in 18 years.
Voter turnout in early voting that ran Friday and Saturday reached a record 26.69 percent.
BTS member Jimin's 'hanbok' suit up for auction
Number of peak concurrent viewers on BTS online event surpasses 2.7 mln: agency
BTS enters Billboard Hot 100 with new Japanese single
Drunk driver gets 8-yr prison term for hitting and killing Taiwanese student
Biden-Moon summit to highlight importance of U.S.-Korea relationship: Psaki
S. Korea considering various 'vaccine swap' options with U.S.
FM: Seoul, Washington 'earnestly discussing' COVID-19 vaccine swap deal
(LEAD) FM: Seoul, Washington 'earnestly discussing' COVID-19 vaccine swap deal
Girl group TWICE to perform on Kelly Clarkson show next week
New virus cases in 500s for 2nd day, vaccine rollout to gather pace