Tight races in 70 constituencies
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Predictions of the outcome for the National Assembly elections remain murky as races in an increasing number of electoral districts are becoming too close to call.
With a week to go before polling day, recent polls show neck-and-neck contests are underway in up to 70 electoral districts around the country out of 247.
In these battleground districts, two major candidates are competing for a parliamentary seat within the margin of error.
The number of close competitions for the April 11 elections is the highest in a decade; compared to 57 districts around this time in the 2008 elections and 44 in 2004.
Asking for anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media, an analyst said the campaign landscape is different from that of 2008 and 2004 as no particular party has gained the upper hand.
“The campaign landscape in 2008 was favorable for the ruling Grand National Party (later the Saenuri Party) as it was held only four months after then ruling party candidate Lee Myung-bak had a landslide victory in the presidential election in 2007,” he said.
“In 2004, the then ruling Uri Party (later the Democratic United Party) had the upper hand as there was a backlash against the GNP-led impeachment drive against President Roh Moo-hyun.”
The analyst said the number of competitive districts in the two previous elections was smaller than the April 11 elections as the related parties benefited from the campaign landscape.
He said the major campaign issues such as the illegal surveillance scandal will likely determine the election results in districts where tight races are underway as the issue could make at least 2 to 3 percent of voters change their mind.
The analyst said he had no idea which party will benefit from the scandal as poll results that can show the co-relation of the illegal surveillance scandal and support rates of parties were unavailable.
In the upcoming elections, a total of 299 parliamentary seats are up for grabs: 247 seats will be filled with the winners of elections, while the remaining 52 seats will be taken by candidates selected for the proportional representation system.
Of the 70 tight races, more than half are based in Seoul and its vicinity, such as Incheon and Gyeonggi Province. Pollsters predict the election results of these districts will be determined by only 1,000 to 2,000 votes.
Recent surveys found candidates in up to 40 districts in the greater Seoul area are competing within the margin of error, making it difficult for pollsters to predict how many seats the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) will garner in the elections.
Nearly half of the electoral districts are based in the region.
The latest Gallup poll found the ruling Saenuri Party enjoyed support of 33 percent, compared with 25 percent for the DUP and the minor Unified Progressive Party’s 5 percent.