Verdict today on lunches, mayor

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Verdict today on lunches, mayor

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Seoul Metropolitan Government officials from the Sajik-dong office in central Seoul set up ballot booths yesterday at Maedong Elementary School. The referendum on free school lunches will take place today from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. By Kim Do-hun


To vote or not to vote. That is the question facing all Seoul citizens and even expatriates today.

A referendum to decide the fate of the city’s free school lunch program - and that of the mayor who opposes it and called the referendum - will be held today from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. at 2,206 polling stations, and the big question is whether voter turnout will surpass 33.3 percent.

If it doesn’t, the exercise is legally voided.

Expats in Seoul who are over 18 years old and received an election notification can also vote.

In the capital’s first referendum, voters will have two options: whether to offer free school lunches to all students by 2014 or only to those from households with lower than average incomes. More than 2.8 million out of Seoul’s 8,387,278 eligible voters must vote for the referendum to be valid.

The final voter turnout will be announced at 9 p.m. But the Seoul Metropolitan Election Commission will update real-time turnout results on its Web site every two hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The final tally will be announced at 11 p.m.

The free school lunches, which were passed by the Seoul Metropolitan Council in December, have become a battle royal in Korean politics, pitting liberal parties that favor them and other forms of heightened welfare spending against conservative parties that rail against populism and fiscal irresponsibility.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, 50, of the ruling Grand National Party called the referendum to reverse the December law, and says he is staking his position on its result.

The GNP is scared of Oh resigning: if he does, a liberal has a good chance of winning a by-election to fill the powerful position.

“The referendum is a vote to decide whether to protect the values of the GNP,” Oh said yesterday at a morning meeting with GNP lawmakers.

If Oh loses the referendum or if voter turnout is less than one-third, he is expected to step down. If he quits before Sept. 30, a by-election will be held Oct. 26.

If the mayor wins, political analysts speculate he will become a “rising star” among conservatives, and could bring added strength to the GNP in next year’s presidential and general elections.

To win more votes and raise awareness of the referendum, Oh yesterday visited Noryangjin Fish Market, Jamsil Sports Complex and Dongdaemun Market.

GNP Chairman Hong Joon-pyo said at a meeting yesterday, “We will make all efforts to urge participation in the vote.”


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

서울 시민 오늘 선택의 날


서울에서의 첫 정책 투표인 무상급식 주민투표가 24일 실시된다. 2206개 투표소에서 치러지는 투표는 오전 6시부터 시작해 오후 8시에 마감된다. ‘포퓰리즘’ 논란 속에 치러지는 이번 투표는 ‘전면 무상급식’(야당안)이란 ‘보편적 복지’와 ‘단계적 무상급식’(서울시안)이란 ‘선택적 복지’간의 대결이다.

 투표 결과에 진퇴가 걸려 있는 오세훈 서울시장은 23일 이번 투표를 ‘가치의 수호전(守護戰)’으로 규정했다. 그는 한나라당 서울시 당협위원장 조찬회의에 참석해, “주민투표는 한나라당의 가치를 수호할 수 있는지를 결정 짓는 투표”라며 “한나라당의 가치를 전파할 가장 좋은 기회라는 마음으로 끝까지 마음을 모아달라”고 호소했다.

오 시장은 “오늘 아침에도 (주민투표에) 격한 반응을 보이는 시민을 만났는데, 민주당에서 ‘(아이들의) 밥그릇을 뺏는 선거’라고 하니까 많은 분이 오해를 하고 있는 것 같다”며 “주민투표의 취지를 정확히 전달받지 못한 분들이 많아 답답하다”고 토로했다.

 한나라당 홍준표 대표는 “민주당의 투표불참 운동은 투표 참여자를 나쁜 사람으로 매도하고 공개투표를 조장하는 반헌법적, 반민주적 작태”라고 맹비난하며 “진인사대천명(盡人事待天命)의 자세로 투표참여 운동에 최선을 다할 것”이라고 말했다.

 민주당은 ‘오세훈 심판론’까지 제기하며 공세 수위를 높였다. 김진표 원내대표는 당 회의에서 “서울시민은 정당한 거부권 행사로 무상급식을 지켜주고, 오 시장을 확실히 심판해 줄 것을 믿는다”고 말했다. 이용섭 대변인은 “이번 주민투표는 투표장에 안 가는 것이 투표하는 것”이라고 주장했다.

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