Double victories for the conservative opposition . . .
South Korea held by-elections on Wednesday for 21 public offices and electoral districts, including the mayorships of the country’s two largest cities, Seoul and Busan. The conservative People Power Party (PPP) claimed both cities, where the mayoral seats (both held by Democratic Party (DP) mayors) became vacant following sexual harassment scandals. The double-whammy win represents the DP’s worst defeat in years and a stark contrast to its landslide victory in the country’s parliamentary elections in April.
Real estate on voters’ minds . . .
Over the last few years, tackling soaring housing prices in major cities has been a critical issue for President Moon Jae-in’s administration. Young, urban, middle-class South Koreans – the mainstay supporters of his Democratic Party – find themselves increasingly unable to afford a home. A recent scandal in which employees of a government housing developer used insider information to profit from real-estate deals reinforced negative perceptions about the Moon administration, already beset by a lack of policy accomplishments and various corruption scandals. Other relevant issues likely on voters’ minds included slow vaccine roll-outs and increasing social inequality.
Bellwether for the presidential elections . . .
Moon Jae-in, who rose to power in a campaign promising fairness and justice in the wake of former president Park Geun-hye’s impeachment for abuse of power, now finds himself accused of double standards and surrounded by allegations of corruption. Voters under 40 were critical to Moon’s victory in 2017, but they turned to the conservative PPP in this week’s by-elections. Almost three-quarters of young men in their twenties voted for the conservative candidate – the largest gender gap among all age groups. Pundits see Wednesday’s mayoral elections as an admonishment of the DP. With less than a year to go before the next presidential election, Wednesday's by-elections have emboldened the PPP and left the DP with much to think about.
- The Blue Roof: Breaking news analysis: Conservatives sweep the Seoul-Busan by-elections
- The Korea Herald: Oh Se-hoon returns as Seoul mayor after 10 years
- The New York Times: Election rout signals a shift in South Korea’s political scene