A landslide for the PPPThe people have judged. The opposition People Power Party (PPP) candidates won a landslide victory in the April 7 by-elections in Seoul and Busan. The PPP’s Seoul mayoral candidate Oh Se-hoon has returned to his office in the Seoul City Hall after a 10-year reign by liberal mayor Park Won-soon by defeating his rival Park Young-sun from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) with 57.5 percent versus 39.2 percent. The PPP’s Busan mayoral candidate Park Hyeong-joon beat the DP’s Kim Young-choon in the second largest city in Korea — 62.7 percent to 34.4 percent.
The scene was completely the opposite just a year ago. The DP swept nearly 180 seats in the 300-member National Assembly at the April 15 parliamentary elections thanks to voters’ desire for stability amid the pandemic. But this time, voters were enraged over the ruling camp’s arrogance and high-handed approach to national governance.
The turnout ratio in the vote on a normal business day was exceptionally high at 56.8 percent, beating the last turnout ratio high of 48.6 percent in the 2011 Seoul mayoral by-election. In Busan, the turnout ratio was 52.7 percent, close to last high of 55.6 percent in 2014.
The results put an end to the DP’s winning streak since 2016. The DP bulldozed controversial platforms without any thought, care or communication with the people. The real estate policy was its biggest folly. Three hot zones in Gangnam — Seocho, Gangnam and Songpa, in particular — which were bombarded with regulations and taxes gave Oh a sweeping victory. So did Yangcheon, Nowon and Mapo districts where property prices and taxes rose sharply. Mudslinging dominated the election trail to the extent that even DP members grumbling about it being shameful. Oh ended up winning in all 25 districts of Seoul.
The PPP has won for the first time since the back-to-back imprisonment of former conservative presidents Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak. But the PPP’s victory has nothing to do with its own doing. Polls showed that voters hit the polling stations to judge the governing party, not because they support the opposition.
The political stage now moves toward the March 9 presidential election next year. The political field has become leveled after one-party dominance is over at least in Seoul, Busan and other places. Both parties are on equal footing now. The DP must shake out of its narrow-minded direction and the PPP must prove how it can change its ways.