PPP takes overall victories in local elections, parliamentary by-elections
The elections took place just 22 days after the inauguration of President Yoon Suk-yeol of the PPP.
The PPP won 12 of 17 metropolitan mayor and provincial governor posts, according to the National Election Commission (NEC) Thursday morning. This includes the re-election of the PPP's Oh Se-hoon as Seoul mayor, beating Song Young-gil, former chairman of the Democratic Party (DP).
The DP took the remaining five mayoral and gubernatorial posts, with an especially tight race in Gyeonggi.
The DP's Kim Dong-yeon, a former finance minister, and the PPP's Kim Eun-hye, a former spokesperson for Yoon's presidential transition committee, ran neck and neck for Gyeonggi governor as tallying continued into the wee hours of the morning. Around 7 a.m., Kim Dong-yeon declared a narrow victory with 49.06 percent against Kim Eun-hye's 48.91 percent. An exit poll conducted by the three terrestrial broadcasters the previous evening found Gyeonggi as a contested region but showed Kim Eun-hye slightly in the lead.
Kim Dong-yeon dropped out of the March 9 presidential race to support DP candidate Lee Jae-myung and merged his minor New Wave Party with the DP in April. The PPP's Kim Eun-hye, a former news anchor for MBC, served as a presidential spokesperson during the Lee Myung-bak administration and until recently was a lawmaker representing Bundang-A district.
The PPP candidates secured gubernatorial posts in Gangwon, North and South Chungcheong and North and South Gyeongsang, and mayoral posts in the cities of Seoul, Incheon, Sejong, Daejeon, Daegu, Ulsan and Busan.
In addition to Gyeonggi, the DP won mayor of Gwangju and governors of Jeju and North and South Jeolla.
Turnout was 50.9 percent, or 22,567,766 out of 44,303,449 eligible voters, according to the NEC, lower than expectations. In contrast, the early voting turnout last week was 20.62 percent, the highest ever for a local election.
The total turnout was short of the 60.2 percent reached in the 2018 local elections.
The June 1 local elections came less than three months after the presidential election that resulted in a narrow victory for Yoon over Lee Jae-myung. It is an early litmus test for the Yoon government and its popularity.
It marked a quick turnaround for presidential candidates in the March 9 election, including Lee Jae-myung and his ally Kim Dong-yeon and the PPP's Ahn Cheol-soo. Lee ran for a parliamentary seat in Incheon's Gyeyang District and Ahn for a seat in Gyeonggi's Bundang District.
Oh Se-hoon will be the first person to serve a fourth term as Seoul mayor. Oh served two terms from 2006 to 2010, and returned to the post by winning a by-election in April 2021. His victory opens up possibilities that he will run as a presidential candidate in the future. He beat Song Young-gil, a former fifth-term DP lawmaker and ex-mayor of Incheon, with 59.05 percent of votes, compared to 39.23 percent for Song.
In Incheon, the PPP's Yoo Jeong-bok took victory with 51.76 percent compared to 44.55 percent for incumbent mayor Park Nam-chun of the DP.
The PPP also won five out of seven parliamentary seats in the by-elections.
The contested seats were in Suseong District in Daegu; Gyeyang District in Incheon; Bundang District in Seongnam; Wonju in Gangwon; Seocheon County in Boryeong, South Chungcheong; Changwon in South Gyeongsang; and Jeju City.
Ahn Cheol-soo, Yoon's transition team chairman, won a seat representing Bundang-A district in Seongnam, Gyeonggi. He received 62.5 percent of the votes, according to the NEC, beating DP's Kim Byoung-gwan, a former lawmaker who had represented the constituency.
Ahn, a software mogul-turned-politician, dropped out of the March presidential race at the last minute to support Yoon and merged his minor People's Party with the PPP.
The DP won two seats representing constituencies in Incheon and Jeju.
Lee Jae-myung, a former Gyeonggi governor, secured a seat in Incheon's Gyeyang-B district, running against the PPP's Yoon Hyung-sun, a doctor who runs an internal medicine clinic. Lee received 55.24 percent and Yoon 44.75 percent.
In 2018, the DP won a landslide local election victory, winning 14 out of 17 key mayoral and gubernatorial posts.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]