South Koreans go to the polls Tuesday to fill a void in the nation’s highest office, two months after former occupant President Park Geun-hye was expelled.
Fourteen hours, from 6 a.m., will be given to those who did not cast ballots during the two-day early voting period on Thursday and Friday. Over 26 percent of the electorate, or about 11.07 million, did so. Overall voter turnout is expected to exceed 80 percent, the highest level in recent decades.
National Election Commission officials check ballot counters at a vote counting station in Seoul’s Yeongdeungpo district Monday, a day before the presidential election Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Exit polls, which were banned during advance voting, will be announced shortly after the polls close at 8 p.m.
According to the National Election Commission, the counting of ballots is likely to start at around 8:30 p.m. The winner could be known as early as around 10:30 p.m.
If the race turns out to be closer than expected, the victor will likely emerge after 1 a.m. on Wednesday. The determining time could be delayed even further if the gap between top vote-getters is less than 1 percentage point.
Liberal candidate Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea is the favorite to win, maintaining his lead in polls throughout the 60-day election race and giving his pursuers the slip at a large margin.
Moon’s support rating hovered at 40-42 percent as of May 3, while those of centrist Ahn Cheol-soo and conservative Hong Joon-pyo stood at 20-22 percent and 17-20 percent, respectively.
“This election is different from past cases in which liberal and conservative voters usually halved themselves between two leading candidates,” said Kim Man-heum, chief of the Korea Academy of Politics and Leadership.
He said it is still hard to predict the outcome as it remains unclear which way voters in Chungcheong, Jeolla and Gyeongsang provinces will go.
Moa Online researcher Yoon Tae-gon picked Jeolla provinces as a core battlefield for Moon and Ahn. “Voters in the region support Moon and Ahn. So one ballot to a candidate means two losses for the other.”
While Moon is leading nationwide, excluding Daegu-North Gyeongsang Province, some observers have suggested swing voters could ultimately determine the result.
Police said they would dispatch 84,000 to polling stations and ballot counting locations to prevent potential incidents.
The winner will be sworn in as president of South Korea on Wednesday. He or she will get a full five-year term.