Poll shows strong support for ruling party in local elections in June

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Poll shows strong support for ruling party in local elections in June

The ruling Democratic Party is in the lead in key local election races to be held in June, including some traditional strongholds of conservative opposition parties, a recent poll conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo showed.

The JoongAng Ilbo conducted polls of five key races: mayoral races in Seoul, Incheon and Busan and gubernatorial elections in Gyeonggi and South Gyeongsang.

Although the candidates for the June elections have yet to be finalized, some politicians have declared bids and others are known to have ambitions to run.

Voters in the five areas were polled from Dec. 19 to 29, 2017, using landline and mobile phones.

According to the poll, the Democrats would win all five key races if the local elections took place today. The Democratic Party will win the Seoul mayoral race whether its candidate is Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon or Rep. Park Young-sun. Either would score an overwhelming victory over opposition contenders, the poll showed.

As of now, Mayor Park is an unbeatable frontrunner in the Seoul race. Political observers said President Moon Jae-in’s high approval rating and Park’s successful performance so far have both increased his political strength.

The survey asked Seoul voters whom they would vote for among politicians considered candidates. Park scored 32.9 percent, while Rep. Yoo Seong-min, chairman of the Bareun Party, came in a distant second with 14.7 percent.

People’s Party Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo scored 10.2 percent, former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn 8.9 percent and Rep. Park of the Democratic Party 6.4 percent.

Mayor Park was ranked the highest among all age groups, including the elderly, who are generally conservative.

Some 39.4 percent of the voters said they wanted Park re-elected for a third term, while 37.5 percent said they want a new mayor.

Among opposition politicians, Bareun Party Chairman Yoo recorded the highest popularity, but it remains to be seen if he will actually run for Seoul mayor. Yoo told the Dong-A Ilbo Tuesday that he has no intention to run in June and that his goal is becoming president in 2022.

In the other races, voters expressed a desire for new mayors or governors. Forty-eight percent of voters in Gyeonggi want a new governor, 50 percent in Incheon want a new mayor and 51.5 percent in Busan want a new mayor.

In a three-way simulated race among Mayor Park, former Prime Minister Hwang of the Liberty Korea Party and People’s Party Chairman Ahn, Park recorded an overwhelming victory with 53 percent. Hwang scored 14.1 percent and Ahn 17.5 percent.

The Democratic Party won another simulation when its candidate was Rep. Park. In that simulation, Park scored 41.7 percent, Hwang 15.7 percent and Ahn 21.9 percent.

Asked about support for a political party in general, the Democratic Party scored 45.7 percent in Seoul, the Liberty Korea Party 9.5 percent, the Bareun Party 5 percent, the People’s Party 3.4 percent and the Justice Party 3.4 percent.

“Although it’s been over nine months since the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, popular sentiment hasn’t changed much,” said Kim Hyung-joon, a political science professor at Myongji University.

A Liberty Korea Party official said the party will see more support when it actually fields good candidates. “Nothing is decided about our candidates,” he said. “Once we recruit a new face, the support rate will change.”

Political observers also said electoral alliances among opposition parties to field single candidates will be an important factor.

In the Gyeonggi gubernatorial race, Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung led in the poll. If Lee runs to become Gyeonggi governor in a three-way race against current governor Nam Kyung-pil of the Bareun Party and Liberty Korea Party contender Rep. Hong Moon-jong, Lee would score 50.5 percent, easily beating both conservative politicians.

Lee’s profile rose with his straightforward criticism of the Park administration. He ran in the presidential primary of the Democratic Party to become a national politician.

In Incheon, a ruling party candidate would win against current Mayor Yoo Jeong-bok of the Liberty Korea Party, the poll showed. Reps. Park Nam-choon, Yoon Kwan-seok and Hong Young-pyo are considered possible candidates from the Democratic Party, and all of them led in simulated races against Yoo.

The Democrats’ popularity is particularly noticeable in Busan and South Gyeongsang, traditional strongholds of the Liberty Korea Party.

Maritime and Fisheries Minister Kim Young-choon and Lee Ho-chul, former presidential civil affairs senior secretary, are possible contenders from the Democratic Party in the Busan mayoral race and they both won simulated races against opposition candidates.

Minister Kim will score 28.5 percent if he runs as the Democratic Party candidate in the Busan mayoral election, 10.3 percent higher than current mayor Suh Byung-soo of the Liberty Korea Party, ranked at a distant second.

If Lee runs instead of Kim, he would still win the race. Lee scored 23.4 percent and Suh 17.1 percent.

In the South Gyeongsang gubernatorial election, Rep. Kim Kyoung-soo, a close associate of Moon, and Kong Min-bae, a former Changwon mayor, are considered as possible Democratic Party contenders. The Liberty Korea Party is expected to field former Supreme Court justice Ahn Dae-hee or Rep. Park Wan-su.

In all simulated races, the Democratic Party won.

In past local elections, the Democratic Party never won a victory in Busan or South Gyeongsang. In 2010, Kim Du-kwan was elected South Gyeongsang governor as an independent candidate. He is currently a lawmaker from the Democratic Party.

Over 30 percent of the voters gave no answer or said they have no candidate they support. The Liberty Korea Party said those silent voters are actually their supporters.

Candidate registration for the local elections will take place on May 24 and 25. The campaign will begin on May 31 and voting will take place from 6 a.m. till 6 p.m. on June 13.

The JoongAng Ilbo survey has a 95-percent confidence level, plus or minus a 3.5 percentage-point margin of error. More information about the survey is available on the homepage of the National Election Survey Deliberation Commission.

BY CHOI MIN-WOO, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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