Main opposition heading for stunning victory in local elections

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Main opposition heading for stunning victory in local elections

South Korea's main opposition party looked set for a surprise victory in local elections, dealing a blow to President Lee Myung-bak's reform drive and tough stance on North Korea.

The liberal Democratic Party (DP) is certain to win at least six mayoral and gubernatorial posts, while the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) secured five seats, according to data by the National Election Commission.

The races for Seoul mayor and governor of South Chungcheong Province were too close to call until early Thursday morning, while independent candidates were expected to score victories in South Gyeongsang Province and Jeju Province. The minor opposition Liberty Forward Party won in the Daejeon mayoral race.
Regardless of the results of the Seoul race, the DP claimed a victory in the elections, widely seen as a mid-term referendum on Lee's leadership.

"The people handed a solemn judgment to the Lee Myung-bak administration and the GNP," DP spokesman Woo Sang-ho said in a statement.

It is a "public verdict against the Lee government's arrogance and self-righteousness" and a victory for the entire opposition bloc, he added.

The GNP and the presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, said it was still early to formally talk about the results of the elections.

The first nationwide polls in two years here were to pick about 4,000 posts, including provincial governors, mayors, councilors and education chiefs by 39 million eligible voters.

A DP victory would end a winning streak by the conservative GNP in recent nationwide elections and herald a rough road for the remainder of Lee's presidency. His single five-year term is to finish in early 2013. It also brightens liberals' hope for regaining presidential power.

The DP is further emboldened by triumphs in Gangwon Province, where the GNP had been traditionally favored. Kim Doo-gwan, an independent who had served as a home affairs minister under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, was also heading for a victory in South Gyeongsang Province, a decades-old stronghold of the GNP.

The elections came as military tension was running high on the peninsula after South Korea accused the communist North of sinking one of its warships with an unprovoked torpedo attack in March. Forty-six sailors died in the incident. How to deal with North Korea is a traditionally hot election issue in the ideologically divided South.
Lee announced a set of retaliatory steps including the suspension of all but inter-Korean exchanges, and Pyongyang responded with threats of war.

The DP claimed Lee and his conservative party have put national security at risk by taking a confrontational approach towards Pyongyang. Other issues such as Lee's push for refurbishing South Korea's four major rivers and his alternative to a contentious project to create a new administrative town in a central region have been sidelined.

As expected, meanwhile, the rival parties attained easy wins in their respective power bases, reflecting persistent regionalism.

Kim Kwan-yong of the GNP easily succeeded in re-election as governor of North Gyeongsang Province, a decades-old stronghold of the party. Park Joon-young of the DP also was re-elected as governor of South Jeolla Province.

The GNP also clinched the Daegu mayorship, while the DP won the Gwangju mayoral competition.
An independent candidate, Woo Keun-min, was declared the winner of the gubernatorial post on the southern resort island of Jeju.

Voter turnout for Wednesday's elections was provisionally tallied at 54.5 percent, the highest in 15 years for local elections, the NEC said, despite worries over growing indifference to politics, especially among young voters. [Yonhap]

Related Korean Article

[수도권 기초단체장도 민주 압승]


2일 실시된 제5차 전국동시지방선거에서 한나라당은 16개 광역단체 중 6곳에서 당선자를 내며 고전을 겪은 반면 민주당은 인천을 비롯해 전국 7개 지역에서 승리를 거두며 약진했다.

3일 오전 최종 개표 결과 한나라당은 수도권 '빅3' 중 2곳인 서울과 경기를 비롯해 텃밭인 부산과 대구, 울산과 경북에서 승리했다.

그러나 민주당은 인천, 광주, 강원, 충북, 충남, 전북, 전남 등 무려 7곳에서 승리하며 예상 밖의 선전을 펼쳤다.

아울러 경남과 제주에서는 무소속 후보가 당선됐으며 대전시장은 자유선진당 후보가 당선돼 이번 지방선거는 야권의 완승으로 결론이 났다.

한나라당은 특히 세종시 문제 여파로 충청권에서 완패를 당했으며 지방선거 최대 승부처인 서울시장 선거에서도 매우 근소한 차이로 승리를 챙겨 민심의 심판을 받았다는 평가가 나오고 있다.

아울러 서울을 비롯한 수도권 기초단체장 선거에서도 민주당이 압승을 거뒀다. 수도권 전체 66곳 중 민주당은 46곳에서 승리해다.

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