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Posted : 2011-10-26 23:54
Updated : 2011-10-26 23:54

Activist Park elected Seoul mayor


Park Won-soon, the unified opposition candidate, is all smiles at the headquarters of the joint election committee in Anguk-dong, Wednesday, after exit polls indicated his victory in the Seoul mayoral race. / Yonhap
GNP suffers loss in capital but fares well in other areas

By Lee Tae-hoon

Park Won-soon, a lawyer-turned-civic activist, clinched the Seoul mayor post in by-elections Wednesday to pick replacements for local government and council representatives in 42 electoral districts across the country.

The 55-year-old unified candidate from the opposition camp defeated Na Kyung-won, a judge-turned-politician of the governing Grand National Party (GNP) by taking the majority of the votes.

However, the GNP which controls the majority of 168 seats in the National Assembly, managed to secure eight of the 11 top posts at smaller local governments up for grab.

These included the top local government seats in Chungju, North Chungcheong Province, the Yangcheong district of Seoul and the Dong district in Busan.

Na, who had to give up her National Assembly seat last month to run the mayoral race, garnered 46.2 percent of the votes, compared to 53.4 percent for Park, despite former GNP Chairwoman Park Geun-hye’s active support throughout the campaign.

Observers say the election outcome will shake up the political landscape, paving the way for civic groups to have a bigger say in politics and the possible creation of a new party.

They note that the liberal lawyer’s victory will serve as a cornerstone for the entry into politics of doctor-turned-software mogul Ahn Cheol-soo, who openly backed Park. His victory will likely deal a serious blow to the ruling party, which reeled from a crushing defeat in by-elections on April 27; as well as to the political career of the former two-term lawmaker Na.

In the April election, the GNP managed to secure only one of three National Assembly seats up for grabs and even lost in the race for a governorship in its political home turf of Gangwon Province.

Political pundits say the defeat in the Seoul mayoral race will likely make the conservative party suffer a leadership crisis and put President Lee Myung-bak in danger of slipping into lame-duck status.

They say GNP presidential hopeful Park may encounter an uphill battle to win her party’s ticket for the 2012 presidential election as the Seoul race was viewed by many as a proxy war between her and Ahn over the next presidency.

Some say conservatives, who have seen Park’s failure to rally support for Na, may seek an alternative for their party flag-bearer, giving rise to other presidential contenders, including former GNP Chairman Chung Mong-joon and Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim Moon-soo.

Others, however, say the former GNP chairwoman may further solidify her position in the party as she played a pivotal role in boosting Na’s support base during the race and significantly contributed to the party’s victories in other regions.

Na said she would humbly accept the result of the election.

“I’ll take it as an opportunity to look back and reflect upon myself once again,” she said. “I hope the newly-elected mayor will become a great mayor for the long-term future of Seoul.”

Wednesday’s voter turnout was the highest among all by-elections in the past decade due largely to the heated contest for the vacant seat.

According to the National Election Commission (NEC), 45.9 percent of 10.02 million eligible voters nationwide cast their ballots, up a respective 4.6 percent and 9.1 percent compared to the last two by-elections.

The voter participation in Seoul, which accounts for 83.5 percent or 8.37 million of the voters, was 48.6 percent.

Unlike nationwide elections, such as the presidential poll, by-elections are not recognized as a public holiday and their average turnout has been below 30 percent.

The final tallies were the highest in Ulleung, South Gyeongsang Province, with 73.2 percent, and Sunchang, North Jeolla Province, with 71.4 percent.

The turnout in Siheung, Gyeonggi Province, remained the lowest among the 42 constituencies with 11.5 percent,

Seocho, a posh district in southern Seoul, had the highest turnout rate in Seoul with 53.1 percent, followed by Yangcheon and Nowon at 50.4 and 50.3 percent, respectively.
관련 한글 기사

<10ㆍ26 재보선> 野 "시민의 승리"

민주, 비호남 기초단체장 선거 전패에 침통

야권은 26일 10ㆍ26 서울시장 보궐선거에서 범야권 박원순 서울시장 후보가 큰 표 차이로 한나라당 나경원 후보를 누르고 당선되자 축제 분위기를 연출했다.

박 후보와 민주당 손학규 대표, 이정희 민주노동당 대표 등 야권 지도부는 오후 8시 안국동 박 후보 선거캠프 개표상황실에서 방송3사 출구조사를 지켜봤다.

100평 규모의 상황실은 200여명의 관계자와 시민들로 빽빽히 들어차 발디딜 틈조차 없었다.

`박원순 54.4%, 나경원 45.2%'라는 출구조사 결과가 나오자 너나 없이 환호성과 함께 "박원순"을 외치는 연호를 쏟아냈다.

박 후보는 미소를 지어보였으나 평정심을 잃지 않으려는 듯 두 손을 무릎 위에 올린 채 TV모니터를 주시하는 모습이었다.

손 대표는 주변 인사들의 손을 부여잡고 "고생했다. 수고했다"고 노고를 격려했다.

이후 박 후보는 시내 모처에서 머물다 당선이 확정되자 선거캠프를 찾아 승리를 안겨준 시민의 선택에 감사의 인사를 했다.

김진표 원내대표와 정동영 박주선 조배숙 최고위원 등 50여 명이 모인 민주당 영등포당사 개표상황실에서도 박 후보의 승리 가능성이 커지자 환호성이 터져나왔다.

야권은 서울시장 보선 결과에 대해 "변화를 바라는 시민의 승리"라고 의미를 부여했다.

박 후보 측 송호창 공동대변인은 "변화를 바라는 시민의 갈망과 의지를 확인했다"며 "박 후보는 서울시민의 꿈과 희망을 실현하는 첫 번째 시장이 될 것"이라고 말했다.

민주당 이용섭 대변인은 서면 브리핑에서 "시민과 민주주의, 민주개혁세력의 승리"라며 "국민의 목소리에 눈과 귀를 닫은 이명박 정권과 한나라당에 대한 시민의 엄정한 심판이자 준엄한 경고"라고 평가했다.

민노당 우위영 대변인은 논평에서 "서울시민의 승리"라며 "2012년 정권교체의 서막을 열어낸 쾌거"라고 밝혔다.

그러나 민주당은 `야권 연합군'으로 선거를 치른 서울시장 선거와 `텃밭'인 전북 남원시장과 순창군수 선거를 건지는데 그쳐 침통한 표정이 역력했다.

서울시장 후보를 배출하지 못한 데 이어 기초단체장 선거에서도 패배한 데 대한 지도부 책임론이 불거질 것으로 예상된다.

야권의 차기 대권주자들도 타격을 입었다.

손학규 대표가 힘을 보탠 서울 양천구청장 선거는 27일 0시 현재 한나라당이 앞서고 있고, 강원 인제군수 선거는 한나라당에 패배했다.

문재인 노무현재단 이사장이 전력투구한 부산 동구청장 선거와 김두관 경남지사의 비서실장이 무소속으로 출마한 경남 함양군수 선거에서도 미끄러졌다. 이로써 내년 총선과 대선을 앞둔 영남권 교두보 확보 전략은 물거품이 됐다.

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