S. Koreans cast ballots in local elections after historic U.S.-N. Korea summit

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-06-13 14:32 Updated : 2018-06-13 14:32
글씨작게 글씨크게

[Yonhap News Photo]

SEOUL -- South Korean voters cast ballots Wednesday in local elections and parliamentary by-elections which are seen as a vote of confidence for the administration of President Moon Jae-in, a day after U.S. and North Korean leaders held their historic summit in Singapore.

It marked the first major elections since Moon, a liberal leader, was elected in May last year to succeed South Korea's jailed ex-president Park Geun-hye, who is still on trial for her role in a massive corruption scandal.

At stake are the heads of 17 provincial and metropolitan city governments, 226 local administrative chiefs, 17 educational heads and more than 3,700 local legislative councilors. By-elections were held simultaneously to fill 12 vacant parliamentary seats.

Voting began at 6:00 a.m. (2100 GMT) at 14,134 polling stations. The outcome of exit polls will be released shortly after balloting ends at 6 p.m. The National Election Commission, a state election watchdog, put the number of eligible voters at 42.9 million. Commission officials predicted rough final results would be available about one hour before midnight.

Some 20.14 percent of voters cast ballots last week in two days of early voting. The turnout rate for the previous local elections in 2014 was 56.8 percent, including 11.5 percent of voters who took part in early voting.

Before Wednesday's voting,  an overriding topic has been a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who signed a peace agreement at their summit in Singapore.

The governing Democratic Party (DP) was upbeat, saying the summit in Singapore would have a positive impact on undecided voters.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) played down the significance of the agreement signed by Trump and Kim, arguing it did not contain North Korea's complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

Pre-election opinion polls showed that the ruling party is expected to score a comfortable victory as public support for the conservative opposition group has waned since Park was impeached and ousted.

In a survey published by Realmeter, a Seoul-based pollster, on May 14, Moon's approval rating stood at 76.3 percent. The ruling party's approval rating was 56.3 percent, compared with LKP's 17.7 percent, while splinter groups like the Bareunmirae Party were far behind at less than ten percent.