Voter turnout lower than expectations

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Voter turnout lower than expectations

Korea’s 19th general election ended yesterday with a lower-than-expected voter turnout, which put a dent in the performance of the liberal opposition camp and favored the ruling Saenuri party.

According to the National Election Commission, around 21.8 million people, or 54.3 percent of the electorate cast ballots yesterday at 13,470 polling stations across the country.

Although the turnout is higher than in the previous legislative elections in 2008, when 46.1 percent of eligible voters voted, yesterday’s turnout was lower than the 60 percent hoped for by the Democratic United Party.

Past elections have shown that a higher turnout favors the opposition party as it signifies more voting by younger people, who tend to vote for the liberals.

The turnout was similar to what the NEC expected. A telephone survey by the Korea Research Center commissioned by the NEC from April 1 to 3 showed 58 percent of 1,500 voters across the country planned on “definitely” voting.

Both the ruling and opposition side expected turnout to be a major factor in the election.

Compared to the 18th general election, the turnout was relatively low in the morning before slightly picking up in the afternoon.

At 9 a.m. - three hours after polling stations opened - only 8.9 percent of voters had cast ballots, which is lower than the 9.1 percent tallied in the elections four years ago.

After noon, however, more voters cast votes, increasing the nationwide average to 37.2 percent by 2 p.m. This was higher than the 33.1 percent in the previous legislative elections.

By 4 p.m., the gap widened even more with turnout reaching 45.8 percent compared to 39.5 percent in 2008.

An hour before polls closed, around 19.8 million, or 49.3 percent voted. More young voters went to polling stations in the afternoon when the sky cleared up from the morning rain.

By region, South Gyeongsang Province had the highest turnout rate with 57.2 percent, while Daegu posted the lowest with 51 percent. Seoul’s turnout exceeded the nationwide average with 55 percent.

By Lee Eun-joo []
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