Voters split their judgment in local polls
The Saenuri had won in Busan, Incheon, Ulsan, Daegu mayoral and Gyeonggi, North and South Gyeongsang, Jeju provincial elections.
The NPAD had won nine seats in Seoul, Daejeon, Gwangju, Sejong City mayoral and Gwangwon, North and South Chungcheong, North and South Jeolla provincial elections.
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon beat off a re-election challenge by the Saenuri’s Chung Mong-joon by one of the widest margins in the main races yesterday, 56.01 percent to 43.1 percent.
With Park’s victory, he emerges as a front-runner in the 2017 presidential election. Serving as Seoul mayor can be a stepping stone to the presidency, as in the case of former President Lee Myung-bak.
In Incheon mayoral election, Yoo Jeong-bok defeated sitting mayor Song Young-gil of the NPAD with 49.9 percent to Song’s 48.1 percent. In Gyeonggi election, Saenuri’s Nam Kyung-pil won the governorship with 50.4 percent to NPAD candidate Kim Jin-pyo’s 49.5 percent.
The Incheon mayoral and Gyeonggi provincial elections were seen as important races to win for the two parties because of their proximity to Seoul and it role as a barometer of public sentiment in the governance of the Park Geun-hye government.
Voter turnout yesterday was relatively high at 56.8 percent, a figure that combined 11.5 percent turnout in early voting held on Friday and Saturday. Though yesterday’s turnout was 2.3 percentage points higher than local elections in 2010, it fell short of an earlier forecast by the National Election Commission that it would reach 60 percent.
The opposition had urged voters to vote to punish the administration of President Park Geun-hye for its bad handling of the April 16 sinking of the Sewol ferry, which killed more than 300 people, most of them high school students.
Park’s party, which expected an easy victory before the tragic accident when Park’s approval ratings were above 60 percent, ran a highly defensive campaign urging voters to give its candidates a chance to help a struggling president make reforms that would avoid another such tragedy.
Voters seemed to have been split in the middle by the two arguments.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [email@example.com]