Moon Jae-in to clinch 2017 presidential victory

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Moon Jae-in to clinch 2017 presidential victory


Moon Jae-in, presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, reacts to supporters in the National Assembly Members’ Office in Yeouido, western Seoul, Tuesday evening after an exit poll predicted he would win the snap presidential election. [YONHAP]

Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party seemed headed to the Blue House, winning 41.4 percent in an exit poll on Tuesday in the country’s first presidential snap election.

Hong Joon-pyo, a conservative maverick from the Liberty Korea Party, scored 23.3 percent in the poll, jointly conducted by three terrestrial broadcasters. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party recorded 21.8 percent, Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party 7.1 percent and Sim Sang-jeung of the Justice Party 5.9 percent.

As of 10 p.m., 2.6 percent of the ballots were counted. Moon won 37 percent and Hong 29.5 percent of the ballots opened. Ahn won 21.5 percent.

Voter turnout was very high Tuesday. According to the National Election Commission, 32.8 million voters, 77.2 percent of more than 42.43 million eligible voters, cast ballots to elect the country’s 19th president, including early voting that took place on Thursday and Friday. That is the highest turnout since 2002.

Tuesday’s election is a landmark in the country’s political history, taking place after the presidency of Park Geun-hye was terminated in March through an impeachment process in the aftermath of a massive abuse of power and corruption scandal. Through the two-month campaign, almost all candidates pledged to end or combat decades-long cozy relations between politics and big business.

Moon, who was narrowly defeated by Park in the 2012 presidential election, is a 64-year-old former human rights lawyer. He promoted a series of liberal policies, including greater engagement of North Korea and reform of Korea’s chaebol or conglomerates. He also pledged to overhaul the criminal justice system and amend the constitution to introduce a new governing system that would reduce the power of the president.

After the exit poll was announced, Moon headed to a conference room at the National Assembly, where members of the Democratic Party were waiting to watch the ballot counting broadcast.

“Today is the day that a new Korea has opened,” Moon said.

Moon said he was grateful to see an overwhelming victory reflected in the exit poll. “If I win, today’s victory is a triumph of ardent hopes,” he said. “First we saw the earnest hope of the people to change the administration and the second is [the party]’s earnest hope. Those were the driving forces behind the victory. I owe this victory to the people.

“The next administration won’t be Moon Jae-in’s administration alone. It will be the administration of the Democratic Party,” he said. “We must work together to face the challenges of reform and unity.”

The 19th presidential election had 13 candidates, the largest number ever. The ballots had 15, but two withdrew on the eve of the election.

The exit poll was jointly conducted by three terrestrial broadcasters from 6 a.m. till 8 p.m. Tuesday outside 330 voting stations, on about 99,000 voters. Three polling companies were hired to dispatch 1,650 researchers to survey every fifth person who completed voting.

The accuracy of the exit poll, however, was particularly uncertain as no surveys were conducted for early voting on Thursday and Friday. The turnout for early voting was significant: 26.06 percent of eligible voters.

The broadcasters, therefore, decided to calibrate the exit poll with an estimated outcome for the early voting based on demographic information of the early voters offered by the National Election Commission.

This election’s total turnout, including the early voting, was 77.2 percent, 1.4 percentage points higher than 75.8 percent in the 2012 presidential election. The highest turnout in Korean history was 89.2 percent in 1987, when the country first introduced direct elections. Turnout then dropped to 81.9 percent in 1992, 80.7 percent in 1997, 70.8 percent in 2002 and 63 percent in 2007.

The 42.43 million voters eligible to cast ballots Tuesday were 2 million more than eligible voters in the 2012 presidential election.

Of the major candidates, Moon was largely supported by voters under 60 and even had support in all regions of the country. Hong gained support from older voters, according to previous opinion polls. Moon represented liberals, while Hong was backed by conservative.

The number of elderly voters increased as Korea’s population ages. Voters older than 50 constituted 32.8 percent of the eligible voters, up from 29.9 percent in 2012. In contrast, the number of voters in their 30s and 40s decreased. They comprised 38.2 percent of the eligible voters, down from 41.9 percent in 2012.

The number of voters in their 20s went up slightly, from 6.617 million in 2012 to 6.764 million.

According to the National Election Commission, the ballot counting process will start around 8:30 p.m. at 251 stations nationwide. The process is expected to be completed around 6 or 7 a.m. on Wednesday, and a winner can be called around 2 a.m. on Wednesday.

The commission will hold a meeting Wednesday morning after it combines results from local commissions. The head of the commission will announce the winner between 8 and 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

Because it is an early election to fill the vacancy created by the termination of the Park presidency, the five-year tenure of the new president will begin as soon as the National Election Commission finalizes the winner. The new president won’t have time to form a transition committee and will immediately take control of the military.

If Moon is finalized, his first official event as president will be a visit Wednesday to the National Cemetery in Seoul. Then he will go to the National Assembly to be sworn in. After that, he will go to the Blue House.

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