(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 14, 18)
By Joo Kyung-don and Kim Na-young
SEOUL, June 2 (Yonhap) -- The ruling People Power Party (PPP) clinched a resounding victory in local elections, giving the newly inaugurated government of President Yoon Suk-yeol an added mandate to push forward with its agenda.
The PPP won 12 out of 17 key races for big city mayors and provincial governors, including Seoul, while the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) won five key races, including three in its stronghold of the Jeolla provinces.
The PPP's victory lost its luster, however, as the party failed to win the race for Gyeonggi governor that has been considered the biggest battleground in this week's elections. The DP candidate, Kim Dong-yeon, came from behind at the last minute to beat his PPP rival, Kim Eun-hye, by 0.15 percentage point.
In Seoul, current Mayor Oh Se-hoon was reelected. The PPP also bagged the governorships of both Chungcheong provinces, both Gyeongsang provinces and Gangwon Province, and the mayorships of Incheon, the central cities of Sejong and Daejeon, as well as the southeastern cities of Daegu, Ulsan and Busan.
The DP won the mayorship of Gwangju and the governorships of the Jeolla provinces, Jeju and Gyeonggi Province.
The PPP's win, which came less than a month since Yoon took office, is expected to strengthen his mandate.
"I take the election results as the people's call to revive the economy and take better care of their livelihoods," Yoon said in a statement issued after the election results were finalized.
"For this, I will navigate the difficulties hand in hand with local governments. The Yoon Suk-yeol government will put all of its energy into stabilizing the public's livelihoods with the attitude that the first, second and third (most important thing) is the economy," the statement read.
The PPP expressed gratitude for people's support.
"The party will move forward as one for the success of the Yoon Suk-yeol government with a sense of infinite responsibility and as if our life depended on it," PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok said during a leadership meeting held at the National Assembly on Thursday morning.
All eight members of the DP's interim leadership committee offered to quit their positions en masse to take responsibility for the election loss.
"We apologize to the people and party members who supported us," Yoon said as he announced the collective resignation following a closed-door meeting of the party leaders.
Up for grabs in this year's local elections were positions for 17 metropolitan mayors and provincial governorships, 226 lower-level administrative leadership positions, as well as 872 seats in provincial and metropolitan councils, with 2,988 being in lower-level local councils.
The final results showed that the PPP won 145 lower-level administrative leadership posts and 540 seats in provincial and metropolitan councils. The PPP and the DP almost evenly share the seats in lower-level local councils.
Also at stake were seven National Assembly seats in parliamentary by-elections.
The DP's former presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung was elected to the National Assembly representing Incheon's Gyeyang-B district. Lee was also the chief of the DP's campaign for local elections.
In another by-election, Ahn Cheol-soo of the PPP, who withdrew from the presidential race to endorse Yoon, secured the seat representing the Bundang-A district of Seongnam, just south of Seoul, after beating Kim Byoung-gwan of the DP.
The PPP also won four other parliamentary by-elections, raising its number of National Assembly seats to 114 against the DP's 169.
In the runup to Wednesday's elections, the PPP and the DP have been wrangling over various issues, from an extra budget bill to support pandemic-hit small merchants to a proposal for merging Seoul's Gimpo International Airport with Incheon International Airport.
Turnout for this year's local elections was tallied at 50.9 percent, the second-lowest ever for local elections, as 22.5 million of 44.3 million eligible voters cast ballots, according to the National Election Commission.
Despite registering a record early voting turnout of 20.62 percent, the final turnout came in far lower than the 60.2 percent logged in the 2018 local elections.
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