NPAD is trounced in by-electionsThe ruling party scored a resounding victory in 24 by-elections held Wednesday despite growing public concern about the conservative government’s decision to start writing history textbooks for schools.
In the 24 races, the Saenuri Party won 15 while the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) won two. In seven races, independent candidates won.
One election was for a county chief, nine were for city and provincial council seats and 14 positions on district legislative councils.
While the Saenuri Party said the outcome was a reflection of public support for the Park Geun-hye government’s decision to start writing history textbooks, the NPAD said it had nothing to do with that issue.
Demands grew inside the NPAD for its chairman, Moon Jae-in, to resign over the defeats. Moon held a press conference Thursday and admitted that the party had largely failed.
“Our politics failed to give hope to the people, and the turnout was very low,” Moon said. “We will work harder with a humble attitude.”
The turnout was 20.1 percent, the lowest by-election turnout since 2000.
Moon, however, rejected the Saenuri Party’s argument that the by-election victory means the public supports state-penned history textbooks. “It is a separate issue,” he said. “This is not a political issue, but an academic issue and an education issue.”
In Wednesday’s by-elections, the Saenuri Party’s Choi Pyeong-ho won the Goseong County chief race in South Gyeongsang. An independent candidate finished second while the NPAD’s candidate, Baek Du-hyeon, came in third.
Of the nine races for metropolitan city and provincial councils, Saenuri won seven and the NPAD won two. Before the by-elections, the Saenuri occupied three out of the nine constituencies, while the NPAD controlled six.
Saenuri candidates were particularly strong in the capital region. Of the six districts located in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi, Saenuri won five.
The NPAD scored one of its two victories in Incheon’s Seo District, where the National Assembly representative is a Saenuri lawmaker. The second victory came in Hampyeong County in South Jeolla.
Of the 14 district legislative council elections, Saenuri won seven while the NPAD scored none. The remaining seven races were won by independent candidates.
Before the by-elections, the Saenuri occupied seven of the 14 positions, while the NPAD controlled four. While the ruling party managed to keep its districts, the NPAD lost all four of its.
The Saenuri Party welcomed the victories, particularly its strong showing in the capital region. The victories were particularly meaningful, it said, because they came amid the Saenuri Party’s campaign to promote state-authored history textbooks.
“The people expressed their strong expectations for the ruling party to maintain control and pay attention to the livelihoods of the public,” Hwang Jin-ha, secretary-general of the Saenuri Party said. “The driving force behind our victories was our strategy to normalize history education and improve the livelihoods of the people at the same time.”
An opinion poll conducted on the textbook controversy showed that public support for the state-authored textbooks increased after President Park gave a speech at the National Assembly and appealed to the public. The speech took place on Tuesday, and Park made clear her intention to introduce government-published history textbooks.
According to a Realmeter poll conducted on Wednesday, 44.8 percent of the public supported Park’s campaign, while 50 percent opposed it. In a survey conducted Monday and Tuesday, 40.4 percent supported it, while 51.5 percent opposed it.
After Park gave her speech, the numbers supporting state-penned textbooks went up by 4.4. percent, although the increase was within the margin of error, the polling company said.
The NPAD said it will take its defeats seriously.
“The districts in the capital region used to be the liberal strongholds, and we lost those areas,” said Ahn Gyu-back, the NPAD’s chief strategist. “The public gave the cane to us.”
Rep. Joo Seong-yong, a senior leader of the NPAD and a critic of Moon, said the party should pay attention to the outcome of the by-elections. “We must work harder,” he said.
BY KANG TAE-HWA, SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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