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Voter turnout to decide presidential election

Posted December. 19, 2012 00:43,   


The majority view is that voter turnout will determine the winner of the presidential election in Korea Wednesday.

To increase turnout, people in their 20s and 30s need to vote, but many of them are believed to be indifferent to politics. Experts say, however, those in the two age groups will more likely vote for Moon Jae-in, the candidate of the main opposition Democratic United Party, because they tend to support the liberal.

History proves it. When opposition candidate Roh Moo-hyun was elected president in 2002, voter turnout was 70.8 percent. In the 2007 presidential election where Lee Myung-bak won a landslide victory, however, the figure was just 63 percent. Though the fall in turnout rate was 7.8 percentage points between 2002 and 2007, the drop among 20-somethings was 9.9 percentage points while that of those in their 30s was 11.3 percentage points, meaning that political indifference of those in their 20s and 30s led the overall drop in turnout.

Experts say the fate of the two main candidates will be determined by turnout rates in the lower 70-percent range. The ruling Saenuri Party say it can easily win the election if turnout is under 73 percent. Despite surveys showing a tight race within the margin of error, the ruling party says its candidate Park Geun-hye is still ahead of counterpart Moon if generational turnout rates are applied.

On the other hand, Moon`s party says that if turnout surpasses 71.5 percent, he will win. To achieve that rate, the party says more than 60 percent of those in their 20s and 30s need to vote. Turnout among 20-somethings was 45.5 percent and 30-somethings 67.3 percent in 2002, while the corresponding figures were 46.6 percent and 56.1 percent in 2007.

To encourage more young people to vote, Moon pledged to do the horse-riding dance from Psy’s hit music video "Gangnam Style" if the rate exceeds 77 percent.

Bae Jong-chan, a senior researcher at Research & Research, said, “If turnout reaches between 68 and 72 percent, neither candidate can be sure of victory. The final result is likely to come out late close to midnight. If the rate is lower than the range, it will give an advantage to Park while higher turnout will be good news for Moon.”

Experts say voter turnout will likely hover around 70 percent as it did in the 2002 election because the unusually tight race this time will draw more voters than in 2007, when incumbent President Lee won a landslide victory.