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South Korean Opposition set for landslide victory in parliamentary elections

First Published: 11th April, 2024 8:13 IST

The Democrats held a total of 154 seats in the 300-seat unicameral legislature before the elections, more than the 114 held by the PPP.

South Korea’s ruling party under the leadership of President Yoon Suk Yeol could face defeat in the legislative elections on Wednesday, with the early projections showing the main opposition party as being poised to win a majority in the National Assembly, Nikki Asia reported on Thursday, adding that there was a big cloud of uncertainty hovering over the country’s leader serving the remainder of his term.

With 99 per cent of votes for directly elected constituencies counted, the Democratic Party was leading in 161 districts, ahead of Yoon’s People Power Party’s 90, according to National Election Commission data compiled by broadcaster JTBC. The totals did not include the proportional representation seats as they were still to be determined.

The Democrats held a total of 154 seats in the 300-seat unicameral legislature before the elections, more than the 114 held by the PPP.

Shortly after polls closed, broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS released projections based on joint surveys with similar but slightly different estimates. KBS reported the Democratic Party was projected to expand its majority, winning up 196 seats. The national broadcaster’s figures indicated that the People Power Party was in line to win as many as 105 seats.

Yoon took office nearly two years ago and has been hamstrung by the opposition-controlled legislature. He is now likely to become the first president in South Korea’s democratic history to serve his entire five-year term without ever holding a majority in the body, Nikki Asia reported.

He narrowly defeated Lee Jae-Myung, who leads the Democratic Party, for the presidency, and the two men have carried on a tense rivalry since then. South Korean prosecutors indicted Lee in connection with an investigation into a development project that he pursued as mayor of Seongnam, adjacent to Seoul. Lee has denied wrongdoing and accused the prosecution service of unfairly targeting him.

People Power Party leader Han Dong-hoon said after the exit poll results were announced that the party was ‘disappointed’ but would continue watching until official tallies are released. TV footage showed party members dressed in their signature red jackets sitting glumly and watching results.

KBS also projected the newly formed Rebuilding Korea Party to win between 12 and 14 seats. The party is headed by Cho Kuk, who served as justice minister under the preceding liberal administration. In South Korean politics, newly formed parties sometimes merge with established ones after elections to increase their standing in the legislature.

“The people have won,” Cho was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as saying.

“The people have made their intent clear that it is a verdict handed down to the Yoon Suk Yeol government,” he added.

Yoon’s party trailed in polls leading up to the elections. Yoon, the country’s former chief prosecutor, has garnered low approval ratings–37.3 per cent in the first week of April, according to polling firm RealMeter– since taking office in May 2022.

To be able to pass laws throughout the remainder of his time in office, the People Power Party would have to win a majority on Wednesday, an outcome the analysts said was ‘unlikely’ before the polls.

Nikki Asia reported that a modest expansion of the Democratic Party’s majority could lead to deadlock in lawmaking, as under South Korea’s political system, the president holds veto power. Yoon has vetoed nine bills as president, already more than any other leader in the country’s democratic history.

However, if the opposition wins more than 200 seats, Yoon would lose his veto power. (ANI)

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