Ruling Saenuri remains largest party
Opposition sweeps Seoul, falters in provinces in April 11 polls
By Park Si-soo
The ruling Saenuri Party managed to maintain its largest-party status in Wednesday’s National Assembly elections despite the main opposition Democratic United Party’s (DUP) sweeping victories in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.
Out of 48 seats up for grabs in Seoul, the Saenuri Party won or was leading in 15 constituencies centered around the upscale Gangnam district as of midnight.
A big boost for the ruling party, led by Park Geun-hye, came from a better-than-expected performance in Gangwon and Chungcheong provinces.
Voters in Seoul and its neighboring areas gave a collective vote of no confidence in the incumbent Lee Myung-bak administration, which was balanced by a strong tendency in swing-vote provinces to opt for stability.
As of 11:30 p.m., the Saenuri Party had won or was leading in 127 out of a total of 246 constituencies with the DUP carrying 107, according to the National Election Commission. The United Progress Party (UPP), the DUP’s ally, had won or was leading in six, it said.
The results favorable to the ruling party were a great departure from early predictions that the alliance of the DUP and the UPP would have an easy win.
The ruling party has come under fire for months after it was embroiled in a string of unsavory scandals that erupted between late 2011 and early this year.
Saenuri Party leader Park, a presidential hopeful, has overseen efforts to rebuild the beleaguered ruling party and has been at the forefront of its election campaign. The daughter of the late former President Park Chung-hee was elected as one of the party’s proportional representation candidates.
The outcome has become a major boon for Park just eight months before the presidential vote.
Some political heavyweights loyal to President Lee, including former ruling party leader Hong Joon-pyo, lost to their opposition rivals, weakening the support base of Lee in the ruling party.
Hong, a four-term lawmaker, conceded defeat and announced he was retiring from politics after exit polls predicted his defeat by a wide margin.
The Saenuri Party dominated districts in its home turf, the southeastern Gyeongsang provinces, while the DUP almost swept its home base in the southwestern Jeolla provinces.
The final voter turnout was 54.3 percent, 8.2 percentage points higher than four years ago. Nearly 40.18 million eligible voters, 80 percent of the country’s 50 million population, cast ballots at 13,470 polling stations nationwide.
The National Assembly is comprised of 246 directly contested and 54 proportional representation seats, the latter being allocated to parties according to the total numbers of votes they receive. Each voter was asked to cast two ballots, one for a candidate and the other for a party.