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South Koreans head to polls to elect new parliament

People in South Korea have begun voting for a new National Assembly, with the ruling conservative party expected to secure a majority.

The vote began on Wednesday at some 14,000 polling stations across the country to elect 253 of 300 lawmakers. The remaining 47 seats are allocated to parties based on the votes they receive overall.

In 2012 election, President Park Geun-hye’s Saenuri Party won a slim majority of 152 in the assembly and it is estimated that the party could win a wider majority this time.

A victory for the ruling party would enable the government to push through economic and labor reforms before Park’s term in office finishes in about 20 months’ time.

Earlier this month, a Gallup Korea survey showed that the Saenuri party enjoys 37 percent support compared with 21 percent for the major opposition Minjoo Party.

A woman looks at election posters of candidates running for the parliamentary election in Seoul, South Korea, April 12, 2016. © AP

Older voters are the main supporters of Saenuri. The party has tried to cement their support by focusing on its tough stance on North Korea following Pyongyang’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

Dissatisfaction, however, is high among young people because of the record high unemployment rate among those aged 15-29.

Falling exports and high levels of household debt have sparked criticism among people over the government’s handling of economy.

“If the ruling party is given a majority, the country would have an economic crisis worse than 1997,” Minjoo Party leader Kim Chong-In told supporters at a recent rally.

Polls will close at 18:00 local time (0900 GMT). Early results are expected an hour after voting closes and official results will be announced on Thursday.


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