Korea Goes to the Polls

      April 13, 2016 10:05

      Elections for 300 lawmakers to fill the National Assembly for the next four years are being held at 13,837 voting stations across the nation from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

      The winners will become apparent in many constituencies at around 10 p.m., but there are many other tightly-contested areas where the outcome will not become clear until midnight.

      People pass banners encouraging voting at the Cheonggye Stream in Seoul on Tuesday, a day before the general elections. /Yonhap

      On Tuesday the political parties announced the numbers of seats they expect to win. The ruling Saenuri Party hopes for 145 seats, the main opposition Minjoo Party for 100 and the splinter People's Party for 35.

      Party leaders and candidates pounded the pavement until late Tuesday evening to win over undecided voters, but none succeeded in galvanizing them with a policy or vision that set them apart from the others.

      Both ruling and opposition camps began their campaigns by disappointing voters and exposing embarrassing internal rifts over the nomination of candidates. It remains to be seen if voter turnout will nonetheless surpass the paltry 54.2 percent of the last general elections four years ago.

      Election posters are strung across the Cheonggye Stream in Seoul on Tuesday, a day before the general elections.

      What could motivate citizens is that the elections are also a confidence vote on President Park Geun-hye's leadership. If the Saenuri Party fails to secure a strong majority, Park will have a tough time pushing through any policies and could end up a lame duck.

      It also remains to be seen whether the Minjoo or People's Party will gain control of the opposition camp. Many pundits decided that the People's Party has won the hearts and minds of voters in the South Jeolla region, a traditional opposition stronghold. But others predict that the Minjoo Party will win more than half of the seats up for grabs in the Seoul metropolitan region.

      If the People's Party led by maverick ex-tycoon Ahn Cheol-soo manages to win more than 20 seats in South Jeolla and through the party list, where seats are allocated through proportional representation, the next National Assembly could end up divided in three blocks instead of two.

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