South Korea: Severe defeat for ruling party in elections

South Korea: Severe defeat for ruling party in elections
South Korea: Severe defeat for ruling party in elections

These two towns, which were in the hands of the Democratic Party, had no chief magistrate since last year. Following accusations of sexual harassment, Seoul mayor Park Won-soon committed suicide and the leader of the southern port city of Busan resigned. Together, these municipalities represent around a quarter of the country’s population and the poll was used as a barometer before the presidential election to be held in March 2022.

In Seoul, the Conservative Party’s Oh Se-hoon beat his Democratic Party opponent with 57.5% of the vote against his opponent’s 39.2%, according to the National Election Commission, winning all 25 districts in the capital. The Conservatives’ victory was even more overwhelming in Busan, with 62.7% of the vote against 34.4%.

Moon Jae-in and his Democratic Party have seen their popularity drop in recent months, notably due to soaring house prices, worsening inequalities and numerous corruption and sexual assault scandals involving senior officials.

“I solemnly accept the people’s sanction,” said Moon Jae-in, according to the spokesperson for the presidency, promising to “deal with the affairs of the state with a much greater sense of responsibility”.

The two new mayors will serve the remaining 14 months of the four-year term of their predecessors. This is the first time that the turnout in local elections has exceeded 50%, the commission added.

Moon Jae-in, elected in 2017 and who does not have the right to serve a second term according to the constitution, has recorded a dramatic drop in his popularity. It was down to 32% last week, with 58% of respondents disapproving of his actions, according to a poll by the Gallup Korea institute.

The results of these municipal elections contrast with those of the legislative elections of last year in which the Democratic Party had won a landslide victory and a large majority in the National Assembly.

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