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New Rules Make Impact on October 26 Election

Posted October. 27, 2005 04:22,   


The lawmaker by-election on October 26 is the first election subject to three newly-revised electoral rules: changing election day from Saturday to Wednesday, reducing the minimum voting age to 19, and introducing an absentee voting system in temporary residence areas.

Opposition and ruling party officials and election commission officials, who oversaw the results of the vote count, have analyzed that the new electoral rules have had a considerable effect on the election results.

Absentee Voter Turnout Increases-

Absentee voting results in this by-election showed that the number of voters who used the absentee voting system in four electoral districts stood at 8,597, an average of 1.6 percent of the total voters, up slightly compared to the 1.3 percent recorded at the elections on April 30. However, given that voter turnout is in the range of 35 to 40 percent, absentee voting’s real influence on election results is expected to go up.

Many say that parties that have well-organized support groups in each region have earned more advantages from the absentee voting system. This is because candidates’ campaigners can conduct one-on-one election campaigns to voters by taking advantage of the absentee voting system in which voters can exert their voting rights in their home without going to polling places.

Lee Sang-su, who ran for a seat in Wonmi-gap in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province on the ruling Uri Party ticket, and who took over former lawmaker Kim Gi-seok’s support organization, has reportedly obtained a considerable number of votes from absentee voting. Ruling Uri Party officials have thrown their efforts into obtaining absentee votes, including applying for absentee voting systems by proxy, by mobilizing their campaigners.

The National Election Commission (NEC) has discovered cases in which election campaigners in place of voters falsely reported absentee voting in Wonmi-gap in Bucheon and in Ulsan during their election campaign, resulting in an investigation by prosecutors.

Who Gained More from Allowing 19-Year-Olds to Vote?-

The April 30 by-elections were held on a Saturday, but this by-election took place on a Wednesday in accordance with voters’ new life patterns resulting from the five-day workweek system.

NEC officials said, “The increased turnout in this election compared to that of the April 30 by-elections has something to do with the Wednesday election date.”

Each party analyzed that in particular, more voters in their 20s and 30s, who usually go out on holidays, exerted their voting rights. In the 16th general election in 2000, the turnout of voters aged 20 to 24 stood at 39.9 percent, and 25 to 29 at 34.2 percent, much less than the overall turnout of 57.2 percent. Among those aged 20 to 24, if absentees excluding those in military service had been factored in, the turnout would have reached in the range of 20 percent.

However, even if more voters in their 20s and 30s cast their votes, this is unlikely to be favorable or unfavorable to the ruling Uri Party and the main opposition Grand National Party. An Uri Party official said, “We garnered much support from voters in their 20s and 30s last year, but given that we recently have nothing special compared to other parties, an increased turnout does not appear to be directly linked to the results of this election.”

Many say that the newly-introduced system that enables 19-year-olds to cast votes has been advantageous to the minor opposition Democratic Labor Party (DLP).

DLP vice spokesperson Kim Seong-hui said, “In particular, in the Ulsan district, our strategic stronghold, we have made much effort, including operating a separate group to encourage 19-year-olds to vote,” adding, “Since from the beginning of campaigns, we judged that the result of this election would be decided by a margin of 300 votes, and we have cherished their votes.”

In-Jik Cho cij1999@donga.com