Camps tense over turnout
Published : Oct 26, 2011 - 19:52
Updated : Oct 26, 2011 - 19:52
Eyes were fixed Wednesday on the voter turnout of the Seoul mayoral by-election, which is to set the tone for next year’s general and presidential races.

According to the National Election Commission, 2.69 million out of 8.37 million voters or 32.2 percent cast their ballot as of 3 p.m. in 2,206 polling stations throughout Seoul.

Seocho-gu, the relatively affluent district in southern Seoul, showed a visible rise in turnout in the early morning hours before 9 a.m. but was overrun after lunchtime by office-clustered Jung-gu, which recorded 34.8 percent.

The central district Jung-gu recorded the highest figure, 34.8 percent, whereas Jungrang-gu in the northeast of the city showed the lowest rate of 29.2 percent.

It is the general understanding that a turnout above 50 percent is to favor liberal candidate Park Won-soon and one below 45 percent to be in the advantage of right-wing runner Na Kyung-won of the ruling Grand National Party.

NEC officials, however, expected the final turnout to range between 45 percent and 50 percent, predicting a tight match up to the last minute.

The turnout of the Seoul mayoral election last year and the lawmaker by-election in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, this April were 53.9 percent and 49.1 percent, respectively.

“We kicked off a fairly good start,” said the spokesperson of liberal candidate Park Won-soon, after checking the turnout at 10 a.m.

“The rates reflect the people’s disappointment at the current administration and expectations for a new leader.”

Officials of both camps, however, remained prudent on their words, especially considering the dramatic last-minute fluctuations as observed in last year’s local election.

Former Mayor Oh Se-hoon, though he de facto boasted his victory in the late hours last June, was temporarily overtaken by liberal rival Han Myeong-sook and almost missed being reelected.

“The key point is how many citizens will participate in the evening after office hours,” said the official. The vote will end at 8 p.m.

Both runners, after casting their ballots in their respective constituency in the early morning, retreated home to rest until the late afternoon.

“I thank the citizens for their support and will wait for the results with a humble heart,” said Na, after voting in her neighborhood in central Seoul.

Park also thanked his supporters and urged voters to make a “wise” choice.

In addition to the fierce battle in the country’s capital, some of the district chief races also caught the attention of the public and parties.

In Dong-gu, Busan, the GNP fought hard against the main opposition Democratic Party for the district chief seat.

Though the southern city has generally been in favor of the conservative ruling party, the public sentiment has greatly been disturbed this year due to the annulment of an international airport construction in the area and the Busan Savings Bank scandal.

Wednesday’s by-elections were conducted in 42 constituencies nationwide to select the Seoul mayor, 11 local wards, 11 city councilors and 19 district councilors.

The elected mayors are to remain in office until February 2014.

By Bae Hyun-jung (