South Korea Election: Ruling Party Loses Majority

South Korea Election: Ruling Party Loses Majority
Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

South Korea President Park Geun-hye’s conservative Saenuri Party has lost its majority in the country’s National Assembly.

The result comes as a surprise to many pundits. Highly-respected think tank Lowy Institute had predicted the party would maintain its lead, and there was some speculation it may even gain a supermajority.

However, after the vote was counted yesterday, Saenuri had won 122 seats in the 300-member assembly, down from the 152 seats it previously held. The main opposition party, Minjoo, won 123 seats, boosting its representation from 106 seats.

Reflecting on the party’s defeat, Saenuri’s spokesman Ahn Hyoung Hwan said, “We, Saenuri Party, humbly accept the results. April 13 is a day that has made Saenuri realize it has no future if it does not regain the heart it once had at its beginning."

Smaller political parties scored victories as well, with Minjoo’s offshoot, the People’s Party, earning 38 seats and the Justice Party with six.

Voter turnout was 58%, higher than the previous election four years ago by 4%.

What cost Park votes?

According to the Chicago Tribune, the lackluster performance of the Saenuri Party was due to the socio-economic conditions during President Park’s term. Park’s hard-line stance on North Korea failed to attract voters in light of the slumping economy. South Korea’s youth unemployment rate hit a record high in February and exports have fallen for 15 consecutive months.

Park has also faced problems ratifying bills, and she has blamed parliament for the gridlock. Before the election, she called on voters to elect officials that understood the importance of passing laws, amid North Korea’s nuclear threat and global economic uncertainty.

Also notable is the performance of the People’s Party, led by Ahn Chul-soo, which earned enough seats to become an important player in the National Assembly. Founder of the cyber security company AhnLab, Ahn was at one stage poised to beat Park in the 2014 presidential election. He aims to position the People’s Party as a fresh alternative to the current two-party system that has dominated the political landscape in South Korea for more than 20 years.

Edited by Edward White


Chicago Tribune
Washington Post
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