The left wing ruling party in South Korea won an overwhelming victory in Wednesday’s general election, partial results showed after the coronavirus pandemic reversed the political trend in favor of President Moon Jae-in.
The country uses a mixture of first-past-the-post seats and proportional representation, but before all the ridings were decided, the Democratic Party of Moon had obtained 163 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, an absolute majority.
His sister party is expected to win 17 other proportional representation seats – which should be declared Thursday later – for a total of 180.
The main conservative opposition party United Future Party (UFP) and its satellite party are expected to win a total of 97 seats.
The turnout was 66.2%, higher than all parliamentary elections held in the South since 1992.
Barely a few months ago, scandals over the abuse of power and sluggish economic growth threatened the leftist president, critics describing his dovish approach to North Korea – despite Pyongyang’s abandonment of its moratoriums on nuclear and ballistic missile tests – unrealistic.
But the relatively quick and efficient management of the epidemic by the South – it also exported test kits to at least 20 countries – was a boon for Moon before the legislative elections, widely regarded as a referendum on its performance.
And his so-called “coronavirus diplomacy” – such as the recent advertisement on his bilateral phone calls with at least 20 heads of state regarding the response to the epidemic – has boosted Korean confidence in his administration, said Minseon Ku, a political scientist at Ohio State University in the United States.
She added that the leader had successfully presented the pandemic as an “opportunity for South Korea to restructure its economy – capitalizing on industries like AI and biopharmacy” and that “coupled with Korea’s global recognition du Sud “for its management of the epidemic went well. with voters.
South Korea was among the first countries to hold national elections during the pandemic, with citizens still urged to maintain social distance after suffering one of the worst early epidemics of the virus.
All voters were required to wear protective masks, wash their hands with disinfectant and put on plastic gloves, and undergo temperature checks upon arrival at the polling station.
Those with fevers deposited their ballots in separate booths which were disinfected after each user.
The victory of the absolute majority means that Moon will probably be less of a lame duck than the previous presidents towards the end of their unique five-year mandate.
“This should give more impetus to his administration,” said Andrew Yeo, professor of politics at the Catholic University of America.
Meanwhile, the former UFP heavyweight, former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and former parliamentary leader Na Kyung-won were not re-elected.
Conservative party “failed to rename itself” after former President Park Geun-hye’s removal, who “limited the border of support for older generations and critical support regions”, JiYeon Hong, professor at the University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong, told AFP.
But while the pandemic has diverted public attention from opposition critics, it would be “dangerous” for Moon to interpret the elections as “justifying foreign policies that don’t work,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“Seoul’s engagement in Pyongyang resulted in diplomatic insults and missile tests. The placement of China has brought little benefit,” he told AFP.
“Talking harshly with Japan has not advanced South Korean interests. And progressives want to speed up military command reforms and resist cost-sharing pressures in Seoul’s alliance with Washington.”