Ruling party set for major victory . . .
South Koreans cast their ballots in the country’s 21st Parliamentary Elections today. The election saw a 66.2 per cent voter turnout, the highest since 1996. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea is on course to win a sweeping victory over the right-leaning United Future Party, with projections indicating it is likely to claim 162 of 253 seats. In a race that was considered to be a preview of the next presidential election in 2022, former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon of the Democratic Party claimed a decisive win over the United Future Party’s Hwang Kyo-ahn. Other star United Future Party candidates suffered major losses, including the former mayor of Seoul and the party’s former floor leader.
Democracy vs. COVID-19 . . .
The high voter turnout was facilitated by the National Election Commission’s measures for safe voting. 26.7 per cent of eligible voters cast their votes through advanced voting, a record high since its introduction in 2014. When casting in-person ballots, voters were provided with plastic gloves and hand sanitizer, had their temperatures taken, and were required to maintain one metre’s distance from other voters. The Ministry of Interior Safety also facilitated ‘residential voting’ for COVID-19 patients and those in self-isolation, with 22.8 per cent of self-isolated people voting in this manner.
Vote of confidence for President Moon, testament of strong public trust . . .
The ruling party’s sweeping victory is a vote of confidence for President Moon Jae-in, who had been beleaguered by various policy challenges and waning popularity prior to the pandemic. The result also underscores strong public trust in the country’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. While several countries have suspended or postponed campaigns and voting due to COVID-19, South Korea’s decision to carry out elections as planned has drawn international attention. Canada has several municipal and provincial elections planned for this year, and with COVID-19 expected to be a reality for some time, South Korea provides a useful benchmark.