Seoul, June 1 (EFE).- Local and provincial elections being held in South Korea on Wednesday will serve as a barometer of support for the government of the recently elected conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol in the next few months.
Yoon took office on May 10 after winning the most closely fought presidential elections in the country’s history.
At stake in Wednesday’s elections are 17 metropolitan mayoralties and provincial
governorships, 226 lower-level administrative leadership positions, 872 seats in provincial and metropolitan councils, and 2,988 in lower-level local councils.
Polling began at 6 am at 14,465 stations across the country and will end at 7:30 pm, according to the National Election Commission (NEC).
Some 44.3 million South Koreans are eligible to vote in these elections, of which 9.13 million have already cast their ballots during early voting. The NEC expects voter turnout to exceed the 60.2 percent registered in the 2018 local elections.
Yoon’s conservative People Power Party (PPP) starts as the favorite in most regions with the exception of two provinces in the southeast, traditional strongholds of the Democratic Party (DP).
It is hoping to win more than half of the mayoral and provincial government seats.
A victory of this magnitude will be a boost for PPP, at least until the 2024 legislative elections, will have to govern with a National Assembly in which the DP has a large majority.
However, many believe that a recent sexual harassment scandal in the ranks of the DP, which lost last year’s mayoral elections of the country’s two main cities – Seoul and Busan – on that account, could continue to haunt the liberal party.
In Busan, both incumbent mayor Park Heong-joon, of the PPP, and Byeon Seong-wan, of the DP, are favorites although Park leads the polls.
The battle is even more critical in the capital region, where 26 million South Koreans – more than half of the country’s population – live.
Incumbent mayor Oh Se-hoon (PPP) is the frontrunner against former DP president Song Young-gil.
Running neck-to-neck for the post of governor in the province of Gyeonggi, which surrounds the South Korean capital, are former PPP lawmaker Kim Eun-hye and former Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon, of the DP. EFE