DP loses by-election in Gwangju stronghold

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DP loses by-election in Gwangju stronghold

The liberal opposition Democratic Party suffered a disappointing defeat in Wednesday’s by-elections in its traditional stronghold of Gwangju, while the ruling Grand National Party enjoyed victories in all four of the districts it fielded candidates in.

Six positions were up for grabs in the by-election to select new heads of city district governments and local legislative councils.

The conservative Grand National Party only fielded candidates in four districts, electing to forego an election in Gwangju, where a new district head was selected. The Democratic Party and People’s Participation Party both fielded candidates, but Kim Jong-sik, an independent candidate, won the Gwangju election in a surprise victory.

The election in Gwangju was one of the highlights of Wednesday’s races, with the battle between the DP’s Kim Sun-ok and PPP’s Seo Dae-seock seen as an analogy to upcoming competition among liberal presidential hopefuls. DP chairman Sohn Hak-kyu and PPP chairman Rhyu Si-min are both potential presidential choices in liberal circles

But it was independent Kim Jong-sik’s victory that seized the day. Capturing 37.9 percent of the vote, Kim downed Seo and Kim Sun-ok, who received 35.4 and 24 percent of the vote, respectively.

“We will take this outcome as a whip for a running horse,” said DP spokesman Lee Chun-seok. “We regard the outcome as the voice of the people calling for the Democratic Party to change more, and faster.”

The DP scored a victory in Gokseong County in South Jeolla, where a local legislative council member was elected.

The GNP meanwhile celebrated four victories, including Kim Chae-yong’s win to become Uiryeong County head in South Gyeongsang. In the past three elections there, the GNP had suffered defeats to independent candidates.

Turnout for the Uiryeong election was 70.9 percent, exceptionally high for a by-election. Kim won 43.2 percent of the vote against two independent candidates. The average turnout of Wednesday’s by-elections was 30.9 percent, according to the National Election Commission.

In addition to Uiryeong, the GNP also won a local council election in South Gyeongsang and two seats in Busan’s Sasang District legislative council.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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