Ruling party wins by landslide 11-4

July 30, 2014


By Kang Seung-woo

The Saenuri Party achieved a landslide victory in Wednesday’s by-elections.

The ruling party swept 11 out of 15 National Assembly seats up for grabs.

The party bagged victories not only in fierce battlegrounds such as Seoul’s Dongjak-B district and two electoral constituencies in Suwon, but in the district of Suncheon and Gokseong, South Jeolla Province, the stronghold of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD).

The addition of 11 seats will catapult the number of the Saenuri Party’s seats to 158 in the 300-seat National Assembly, which gives it a super majority and will help it control the legislative process, and materialize the Park Geun-hye administration’s key policies. The NPAD now has 130 seats.

In the Dongjak-B district, Saenuri Party candidate and former lawmaker Na Kyung-won beat the opposition bloc’s unified candidate Roh Hoe-chan of the Justice Party by 1.2 percentage points.

The ruling party’s political rookie Kim Yong-nam delivered a more brutal blow to the main opposition party, upsetting former Gyeonggi Governor Sohn Hak-kyu in the Suwon-C for his first Assembly seat.

The Saenuri Party’s Chung Mi-kyung was also victorious in Suwon-B, but the NPAD’s Park Kwang-on blocked a ruling party sweep in Suwon with a win over Yim Tae-hee, who served as chief of staff to former President Lee Myung-bak, in the city’s D-constituency.

Lee Jung-hyun, a close aide to President Park Geun-hye, made history in the constituency of Suncheon and Gokseong, becoming the first ruling party candidate to win a parliamentary post in Gwangju and South Jeolla Province since the single-member constituency was introduced in 1988.

Behind his pledge that he will drop a “budget bomb” into the constituency on the back of his strong ties with the head of state, the former senior presidential press secretary defeated Seo Gap-won of the NPAD, who was an aide to the late President Roh Moo-hyun, by a large margin.

Among notable candidates, Kim Doo-kwan, a former governor of South Gyeongsang Province, lost to the Saenuri Party’s lesser known Hong Cheol-ho; and former three-term lawmaker Jung Jang-sun also fell in the Pyeongtaek-B district.

NPAD candidate Kwon Eun-hee, a former police officer who blew the whistle on an attempt to cover up a high-profile election-meddling scandal, captured her first parliamentary post in the Gwangju Gwangsan-B district.

According to the National Election Commission (NEC), some 2.88 million people were eligible to vote in the 15 constituencies and 948,000 had cast their ballots, a turnout of 32.9 percent. The average voter turnout in the past 14 by-elections was 35.3 percent and this year’s figure is lower than those in two previous ones held in April and October of last year ― 41.3 percent and 33.5 percent.

Given that the nation recorded its highest voter turnout in early voting for the by-elections at 7.98 percent, which took place on May 30 and 31, the election watchdog expected to see higher public participation.

“Despite the high participation in early voting, the turnout was lower than expected because it took place in the middle of the summer vacation and the capital area that posts relatively low voter turnout had a large number of constituencies,” an NEC official said.

By region, the district of Suncheon and Gokseong, South Jeolla Province saw the highest turnout of 51 percent, followed by the Dongjak-B constituency with 46.8 percent.

However, the capital area with five electoral districts ― seen as a ferocious battlefield that the rival parties put all-out efforts into ― saw only Gimpo manage to surpass the national average at 35.8 percent.

The Gwangju Gwangsan-B district recorded the lowest at 22.3 percent.

In the polls, the economy and candidates’ credibility topped the minds of voters.

The governing party was appealing to voters on President Park Geun-hye’s economic recovery plan, while the opposition asked for a judgment on the April 16 Sewol ferry sinking, which it claimed was the result of the government’s incompetence.