A voter case his ballots at a polling station in Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)
South Koreans voted Wednesday to elect mayors, governors, local council members and regional education chiefs in nationwide local elections that could determine whether the newly inaugurated government of President Yoon Suk-yeol can powerfully push its agenda in its first years.
Up for grabs in this year‘s local elections are 17 metropolitan mayoralties and provincial governorships, 226 lower-level administrative leadership positions, as well as 872 seats in
provincial and metropolitan councils, and 2,988 in lower-level local councils.
Also at stake are seven National Assembly seats, with parliamentary by-elections to take place in districts in Daegu, Incheon, Seongnam, Wonju, Boryeong, Changwon and Jeju.
Voting kicked off at 6:00 a.m. and is to run until 6:00 p.m. at 14,465 polling centers nationwide, according to the National Election Commission.
COVID-19 patients and those in quarantine are allowed to vote between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
There are 44.3 million eligible voters, 9.13 million of whom already cast their ballots during the two-day early voting last week.
Turnout of the advance voting came to 20.62 percent, the highest for any local elections, the NEC said.
The election watchdog expects final turnout for Wednesday’s elections to surpass the 60.2 percent logged in the 2018 local elections.
The elections come less than a month after Yoon took office.
Recent surveys have shown the ruling People Power Party was expected to win at least nine out of the 17 key races for big city mayoralties and provincial governorships, including Seoul and Incheon, while the main opposition Democratic Party was expected to win at least four races, including three in the Jeolla provinces, its traditional stronghold.
The other four races are considered neck and neck, including the contest for Gyeonggi governor. (Yonhap)