Saenuri routed, Minjoo becomes the first, Ahn gains clout

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Saenuri routed, Minjoo becomes the first, Ahn gains clout


The mood varied at the headquarters of the three top political parties Wednesday evening after results of an exit poll for the general election were announced by broadcasters. Top: Saenuri Party leaders, including floor leader Rep. Won Yoo-chul, center, show serious faces. Middle: The Minjoo Party of Korea, including its interim chairman, Kim Chong-in, center, applaud as they watch the results. Bottom: Leaders of the People’s Party, including Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo, center, welcome the exit poll announcement. [Kim kyung-bin,cho mun-gyu,kang jung-hyun]

The ruling Saenuri Party of President Park Geun-hye suffered a crushing defeat in Wednesday’s general election, reduced to the second largest party in the National Assembly after the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea.

According to the National Election Commission, the Minjoo Party won 123 seats in the 300-member National Assembly and the Saenuri Party won 122. The People’s Party of Ahn Cheol-soo won 38 seats, making it a brand new political force. The Justice Party won six and independent candidates won 11.

It is the first time in 16 years that liberal opposition lawmakers will outnumber the ruling party in the legislature As a result, President Park will struggle through the remainder of her term, which ends in Feb. 2018.

Excluding the independents, the three liberal and centrist opposition parties occupy 167 seats in the legislature.

The Minjoo Party became the largest party in the National Assembly for the first time since 2004.

Of the 300-member legislature, 253 will be lawmakers representing electoral districts and 47 will be proportional representatives named by political parties. Of the 253 districts, the Minjoo Party won 110 districts, Saenuri Party 105, the People’s Party 25, the Justice Party two and independent candidates 11.

Of the 47 proportional representation seats, the Saenuri Party won 17, the Minjoo Party and the People’s Party each won 13, the Justice Party won 4.

Turnout was 58 percent, the National Election Commission said.

According to the ballot count, the Saenuri Party fared particularly badly in the capital districts, where 122 seats were at stake. The Saenuri Party only managed to win 12 seats in Seoul and 19 in Gyeonggi Province. Even in Seoul, it surrendered its traditional strongholds of Gangnam B and Songpa C.

Voters showed unexpectedly strong support for a third party - Ahn Cheol-soo’s People’s Party - altering Korea’s lengthy political tradition of a two-party system based on regionalism, class and ideology.

Ahn's People’s Party secured enough seats to form a negotiation bloc in the National Assembly and become the third largest power in the legislature. Despite its short history, the People’s Party, established by Ahn at the end of last year after he quit the Minjoo Party, won the right to send representatives to legislative negotiations by securing more than 20 lawmakers required for a negotiation bloc.

The Saenuri Party and the Minjoo Party – in previous incarnations and under different names -- have dominated Korean politics for decades with deeply-rooted regionalism. The Saenuri is supported by Gyeongsang provinces and Busan, while the Minjoo’s stronghold is Gwangju and the Jeolla provinces. The Minjoo also enjoyed popularity in the working-class districts of Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi. The Saenuri is conservative, meaning pro-business and anti-North Korea, while the Minjoo is liberal, anti-Big Business and in favor of engaging North Korea.

The 20th National Assembly is divided among three major parties- the Saenuri, Minjoo and the People’s Party - for the first time in 20 years. The 1996 general election was a contest among three political giants. The New Korea Party of the incumbent President Kim Young-sam, the predecessor of the Saenuri, won 121 seats in the 253-member legislature, the National Congress for New Politics of future president Kim Dae-jung won 66 and the United Liberal Democrats of veteran politician Kim Jong-pil won 41.

While the Saenuri Party was crushed in the capital districts, the Minjoo Party put up a good fight in the Saenuri’s traditional strongholds of Yeongnam region – Busan, Daegu and North and South Gyeongsang provinces. Of the 65 Yeongnam districts, the Saenuri Party lost in 17.
The People’s Party prevailed in Honam, composed of Gwangju and South and North Jeolla. Of the 28 districts there, it won 23.

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