The local elections Wednesday saw races in many areas across the nation surprisingly close. As of 10:30 p.m., candidates for elected posts in Seoul, Incheon and the provinces of Gangwon, South and North Chungcheong, South Gyeongsang and Jeju were in neck-and-neck competitions.
Buoyed by President Lee Myung-baks approval rating of more than 50 percent and the sinking of the Cheonan, candidates of the ruling Grand National Party were ahead of their opponents early on. As the day wore on, however, voters began backing opposition candidates to keep the ruling party in check. The increase in the number of young voters casting their ballots at the last minute also affected the election results. Voter turnout was 54.5 percent, the highest since 68.4 percent in the first local elections in 1995.
The ruling party failed to attract many votes since certain candidates were nominated at the last minute. It failed to nominate qualified candidates in South Chungcheong, South Gyeongsang and Gangwon provinces due to intervention by influential party members and conflict of interest among lawmakers. The partys failure raises questions over whether it can overcome internal division and lame-duck status.
Many candidates friendly to the late former President Roh Moo-hyun drew many votes. Pro-Roh candidates showed good performance at around 30 electoral districts. They include Han Myeong-sook (Seoul mayor), Ahn Hee-jung (South Chungcheong governor), Lee Kwang-jae (Gangwon governor), Rhyu Si-min (Gyeonggi governor), and Kim Du-kwan (South Gyeongsang governor). The unexpected results could indicate voter preference for a generational shift. The main opposition Democratic Party showed its limitations, however, by unconditionally nominating pro-Roh candidates instead of stressing its own vision and identity. The party needs a future-driven vision and should suggest productive policies instead of getting carried away in triumph.
The ruling and opposition parties should stop their verbal attacks against each another and instead help stabilize the peoples lives. This is the only way to unify public opinion and gather momentum for the countrys growth. No party scored a landslide victory in the local elections. Political parties failing to humbly accept the results will be judged in the next elections.