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(LEAD) Parties focus on campaigns in Seoul, adjacent areas on eve of elections

All News 15:46 April 14, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 8-10,12-13; CHANGES photo)

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.

Former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (L) of the ruling Democratic Party and Hwang Kyo-ahn, chief of the main opposition United Future Party, appeal to voters in Jongno, central Seoul, on April 14, 2020. (Yonhap)

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 has called on voters to help it become the No. 1 party with a majority of the vote. It eyes at least 145 seats, including 130 directly elected slots.

"The DP will stage war against the COVID-19 and economic crisis immediately after the elections. Please support the DP and the Platform Party," DP leader Lee Hae-chan said at a party meeting, referring to the DP's affiliated party that only targets PR slots.

The main opposition United Future Party (UFP) has focused on rallies in 12 constituencies in Seoul where it expects to win after neck-and-neck races. The party has stressed the need 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 highlighted the government's failure to prop up the economy and the need to deter what it called the tyranny of the Moon government.

"(If the DP wins the elections), the economy will suffer further difficulties and people's livelihoods will deteriorate," Hwang told reporters in Jongno.

Minor parties, including the Party for People's Livelihoods and the progressive Justice Party, have highlighted the need to keep the two biggest parties in check as an alternative political force.

Smaller parties, in particular, have 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.

A voter casts a ballot in early voting for the April 15 parliamentary elections at a polling station in the southern Seoul ward of Gangnam on April 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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