SEOUL, May 28 (Korea Bizwire) – Two-day early voting for next week’s local elections ended with a turnout of 20.62 percent on Saturday, the highest for any local elections, the election watchdog said.
More than 9.13 million of the country’s 44.3 million eligible voters cast their ballots during early voting for the June 1 local elections, according to the National Election Commission (NEC).
Up for grabs are 17 metropolitan mayoralties and provincial governorships, 226 lower-level council leadership positions, as well as 779 seats in provincial and metropolitan councils and 2,602 in lower-level local councils.
The turnout was the highest early voting for any local elections, and the fourth-highest for any nationwide election. Early voting turnout for the June 13 local elections in 2018 was 20.1 percent.
The NEC said the final turnout for the upcoming local elections is expected to be higher than the 60.2 percent recorded in 2018.
But the latest turnout was far lower than a record 36.93 percent in early voting turnout for the March 9 presidential election.
South Jeolla Province reported the highest turnout of 31.04 percent, while the southeastern city of Daegu logged the lowest of 14.8 percent.
As for early voting for parliamentary by-elections that will be simultaneously held with the local elections Wednesday, the turnout came to 21.76 percent, the watchdog said.
COVID-19 patients and those in quarantine were allowed to participate in early voting from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, after the regular voting hours between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This year’s elections have drawn greater attention as seven National Assembly seats are also at stake, with political heavyweights, such as former presidential candidates Lee Jae-myung and Ahn Cheol-soo, throwing their hats into the ring.
Both the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) encouraged people to participate in early voting, claiming that high early voting turnout can ensure victory in the June 1 elections.
Many candidates already voted on Friday, with President Yoon Suk-yeol and Prime Minister Han Duck-soo also casting their ballots early.
The results of the elections are expected to significantly boost or weaken the mandate of the new government of President Yoon less than a month after he took office.
Recent polls showed the PPP taking leads in most big races, except those in the liberal Honam region, the home turf of the DP.
The conservative PPP hopes it can extend the momentum of the presidential election victory and win more than half of 17 gubernatorial and mayor posts.
The DP, which controls a majority in the National Assembly, is looking to recover from the March 9 presidential election defeat and expand its power across the nation to keep the Yoon government in check.
The liberal party, which scored a landslide victory in the 2018 local elections, has been promoting that most incumbent local government heads are from the party and that they should continue their jobs.
Both parties view the capital area, where half of the country’s 52 million population resides, as a key battle ground.
The Seoul mayoral election has been mainly a two-horse race between current Mayor Oh Se-hoon of the PPP and former DP Chairman Song Young-gil. Recent polls showed Oh leading Song by a wide margin.
The race for Gyeonggi governor has been largely between former lawmaker Kim Eun-hye of the PPP and former Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon of the DP. Recent polls showed that the two were running neck and neck.