Low Turnout Expected for General Election

  • By Hong Young-lim, Choi Yeon-jin

    April 03, 2020 13:05

    The coronavirus epidemic is expected to slash voter turnout in the upcoming general election amid a bewildering glut of choices as both ruling and main opposition parties are fronting proxy parties for proportional parliamentary seats.

    The epidemic has already deprived most overseas Koreans and voters in self-quarantine of their votes. Surveys have also shown that turnout could be lower than in previous general elections for fear of infection.

    The National Election Commission turned to Gallup Korea to survey 1,500 voters on March 23 and 24, and 72.7 percent said they intend to cast their ballots regardless.

    Election staff set up posters of candidates for the general election in Seoul on Wednesday. /Yonhap

    But a survey conducted a week ahead of the 2016 general election showed 76 percent of voters saying they intended to cast their ballots, but actual turnout was only 58 percent. That means actual voter turnout this time could be just over 50 percent.

    Expatriate voting has been canceled at 65 overseas missions due to the epidemic, leaving around 85,000 voters abroad robbed of their franchise. Those put in self-quarantine now are also unable to vote, and their number is expected to rise to some 100,000 by April 15.

    Staff look at instruction posters for the general election at a regional election committee in Sejong City on Thursday. /Yonhap

    In previous elections, a higher voter turnout among people in their 20s and 30s led to the progressive ruling party winning, while higher turnout among people over 60 led to favorable consequences for the conservatives.

    The Minjoo Party usually encourages people to vote while the opposition camp has been rather nervous about a high voter turnout, fearful that young voters would rally behind the enemy.

    One official at the United Future Party said, "There used to be a saying that good weather on voting day favors the conservative party because young people head outdoors instead of going to polling stations."

    But the opposite appears to be in play this time. The UFP has been active in boosting voter turnout while Minjoo has been rather passive because both sides believe voter turnout among conservative middle-aged people and senior citizens will be weak due to the coronavirus epidemic.

    Under a change in election laws last year, the way proportional seats in the National Assembly are allocated has changed, and now they will no longer be based on the proportion of lawmakers elected but on actual votes counted. 

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