Size of turnout critical to poll result

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Size of turnout critical to poll result

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Officials from the National Election Commission check vote-counting machines yesterday at a polling station at Yeouido High School in Yeongdeungpo District, western Seoul. The country’s 18th presidential election is today. [NEWSIS]


As the 18th presidential election is expected to be a head-to-head race, all eyes are now on whether the turnout will exceed 70 percent, which poll analysts say would be advantageous for the opposition candidate Moon Jae-in.

About 40.5 million eligible voters can cast their ballots between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. at 13,542 polling stations nationwide.

The three crucial points to this year’s election are: whether the overall turnout will be more than 70 percent, as in the 2002 race when liberal candidate Roh Moo-hyun won with a 70.8 voter turnout; whether more than 65 percent of those in their 20s and 30s will vote and whether those in their 50s and 60s will exceed 80 percent; and the outcome of about one million absent votes.

It’s the first time that the absentee votes have numbered more than 1 million in Korea.

The National Election Commission (NEC) surveyed 1,500 eligible voters on Dec. 12 about whether they would vote today, and 79.9 percent of the respondents said they “will definitely vote.”

The rate is similar to that of the same survey conducted in 2002 by the NEC.

At the time, 80.5 percent of then-respondents said they would vote, and the turnout was 70.8 percent.

“The race is actually a one-on-one competition between conservatives and liberals, because the liberals merged their campaigns,” said Lee Taek-soo, head of the private polling company Realmeter.

“So the turnout should be between 70 and 72 percent.”

Analysts point out that young voters tend to like the liberal Moon and older voters in their 50s or 60s mostly support the ruling Saenuri Party’s Park Geun-hye.

In 2002, when liberal Roh won the race, the voter turnout of people in their 20s and 30s was 62.2 percent, and that of voters in their 50s and 60s was 80.9 percent.

Analysts say that if the young people’s turnout exceeds 65 percent, it will be advantageous to the Democratic United Party’s Moon, while if the older voters exceed 80 percent, it will be good for Park.

The NEC said the outcome should be released at around 11 p.m., five hours after the voting closes.

“As the race is quite neck-and-neck, we predict the election outcome will be announced at night, later than previous elections,” a NEC official said.

For the first time, the three major broadcasters, KBS, MBC and SBS, will conduct a joint exit poll along with three local polling companies, investing a total of 1 billion won ($931,847).

Starting from 6 a.m., they will conduct exit polls at 360 polling stations nationwide until 5 p.m., surveying about 86,000 voters. The outcome of the exit polls will be announced at 6 p.m.


By Kim Hee-jin, Jeong Hyo-sik [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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