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Ruling party likely to win more than majority of parliamentary seats: exit polls

All News 20:38 April 15, 2020

By Kim Soo-yeon

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and its affiliated party are expected to secure more than a majority of parliamentary seats in Wednesday's general elections, viewed as a referendum on President Moon Jae-in, exit polls showed.

The DP and the Platform Party, a satellite sister party that only targets proportional representation (PR) seats, are expected to win 155-178 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, according to the poll by South Korea's public broadcaster KBS.

The main opposition United Future Party (UFP) and its affiliated Future Korea Party that only pursues PR spots are likely to win 107-130 seats.

Separate exit polls by broadcasters MBC and SBS showed similar results forecasting the ruling bloc's victory.

Lee Nak-yon (2nd from L) of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and DP chairman Lee Hae-chan (C) speak to each other while watching the broadcasting of voting counts for the parliamentary elections at the party's office in Seoul on April 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

The exit polls by the three major TV networks also forecast that former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon of the DP will win 53 percent of the vote against the 44.8 percent of Hwang Kyo-ahn, chief of the UFP, in the Jongno district in central Seoul.

A high-profile race has unfolded between Lee and Hwang in Jongno, a symbolic constituency in Korean politics, as they are viewed as potential presidential candidates.

South Korea held the quadrennial parliamentary elections at 14,330 polling stations across the nation to fill the unicameral National Assembly -- with 253 directly contested seats and 47 PR slots -- in the midst of the country's fight against the new coronavirus.

South Korea became the first major country to hold nationwide elections since the COVID-19 crisis began sweeping the globe.

Whether the country can successfully hold the polls in the midst of the pandemic has been closely watched from overseas as it may serve as a guideline for other countries for safe voting.

The ruling party was widely expected to win the elections on the back of positive assessment of the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

During campaigns, the DP urged voters to support the government's fight against the new coronavirus and its efforts to minimize the economic fallout of the pandemic.

If the DP secures more than a majority of the seats, Moon, now in his third year in office, is expected to manage state affairs stably and gain traction in his push for a reform drive.

Moon took office in May 2017 with pledges to engage with North Korea and pursue income-driven economic growth.

If the exit polls outcomes are realized, it will mark the DP's first win of a majority of the parliamentary slots in 16 years.

Meanwhile, the conservative UFP is expected to suffer its third straight defeat in elections, including in the 2018 local elections, since the 2017 ouster of former President Park Geun-hye.

In the run-up to the polls, the UFP highlighted the government's failure to prop up the economy and raised the need to deter what it called the tyranny of the Moon government.

Hwang Kyo-ahn (C), chief of the main opposition United Future Party, and party members watch the broadcast of voting counts for the parliamentary elections at the National Assembly in Seoul on April 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

Voter turnout in the parliamentary elections tentatively came in at 66.2 percent, the highest turnout in 28 years, according to the National Election Commission (NEC).

Voter turnout in early voting also reached a record 26.69 percent.

The NEC prioritized bolstering voter safety at polling stations to prevent people from being exposed to the risk of infection.

Voters wearing face masks had their temperatures checked at the entrance. They also disinfected their hands with sanitizers and put on plastic gloves before casting ballots. To keep social distancing rules, voters were advised to stand at least 1 meter apart from others.

Self-isolators over the virus were also allowed to vote after the regular voting ended at 6 p.m. as the government temporarily lifted quarantine rules.

Only people in self-isolation who have no symptoms and expressed a willingness to vote were permitted to cast ballots.

The general elections were conducted under the new electoral reform bill that was passed in December. The new rules called for adopting a mixed-member PR scheme and lowering the voting age to 18.

The new system could work favorably for minor parties, as the method of distributing PR seats will better reflect votes cast for parties.

But the DP and the UFP created satellite sister parties that only target PR seats, drawing criticism that the move undermines the intent of the newly introduced PR system.

The longest-ever ballots of 48.1 centimeters were 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.

Voting counts kick off in the southeastern city of Ulsan on April 15, 2020, as South Korea held parliamentary elections. (Yonhap)


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