Saenuri Party Pulls off Surprise Win in General Election

      April 12, 2012 09:03

      The ruling Saenuri Party pulled off a dramatic victory in Wednesday's close-run general election to end up with a majority in the National Assembly. Out of 300 parliamentary seats, the Saenuri Party won 152 as against 127 for the main opposition Democratic United Party and 13 for the DUP's coalition partner, the Unified Progressive Party.

      The race was too close to call until late Wednesday night, with votes won by ruling and opposition candidates varying less than 2 percent in around 20 constituencies across the nation. Competition was especially close in the capital, with many districts seeing fewer than 100 votes separating the Saenuri and DUP candidates.

      The tight race was forecast by exit polls by the three major broadcasters when voting ended at 6 p.m. An exit poll by KBS showed the Saenuri Party winning between 131 and 147 seats and the DUP the same. MBC forecast the Saenuri Party to win between 130 and 153 seats and the DUP 128 to 148. SBS gave Saenuri 126 to 151 and the DUP 128 to 150.

      In one-fifth out of the 246 constituencies across the nation, Saenuri or DUP candidates were ahead by less than a 5-percent margin.

      The outcome is seen as a litmus test for the presidential election in December and a verdict on the Lee Myung-bak administration's performance. The Saenuri Party managed to hold on to its traditional stronghold in the Gyeongsang provinces, and performed well in the Chuncheong region, in contrast to its poor showing there in previous general elections, while practically dominating Gangwon Province.

      By winning far more seats than the 120 it had set as its last line of defense, Saenuri's election committee chairwoman and presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye is now in a solid position for her bid for the top office.

      But the DUP failed to seize a golden opportunity to use the general election as a judgment call on the Lee administration and ruling party, winning far fewer seats than it had expected. DUP leader Han Myeong-sook, who oversaw the selection of candidates, and senior adviser Moon Jae-in, who led campaign efforts in the crucial South Gyeongsang areas including Busan, are expected to come under heavy fire.

      The DUP's election defeat is also expected to turn attention back to software tycoon Ahn Cheol-soo's potential bid for the presidency as a candidate for the progressive camp. The main reasons for the DUP's poor result were apparently its lack of presidential hopefuls with a presence strong enough to sway voters, and the impression that it was being pushed around by its far-left coalition partner. Its fixation on toppling the ruling party and punishing the Lee administration failed to win the hearts and minds of younger voters.

      But it is too early to say whether the results of the general election will be repeated in the presidential election. The Saenuri Party managed to gain just 16 seats out of 48 in Seoul, which accounts for almost 50 percent of total voters.

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