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S. Korea’s local elections are two months away

Posted April. 01, 2022 07:48,   

Updated April. 01, 2022 07:48


As the June 1 local election is two months away, the ruling and opposition parties are gradually entering a competition for nominations. Kim Dong-yeon, the leader of the New Wave, which will be merged with the Democratic Party of Korea, and Yoo Seung-min, a former member of the People Power Party, announced on Thursday to run for the governor of Gyeonggi Province. Gyeonggi Province is considered to be the biggest battlefield. Incumbent Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon of the People Power Party will run for the mayor of Seoul while Song Young-gil, a former head of the Democratic Party of Korea, is mentioned as a competing candidate. Hong Joon-pyo, a member of the People Power Party, made an official announcement to run for the mayor of Daegu.

The local election will be held about 20 days after the launch of the Yoon Seok-youl administration. It is hard to predict which party will win public sentiment given the close presidential election of only 0.73 percentage point difference. In multiple public opinion polls, people’s expectation level for Yoon’s operation of state affairs is around 50 percent. As the public sentiment remains largely unchanged and still divided, the parties are developing election strategies by treating the local election as an extension of the presidential election.

The Democratic Party of Korea won in 14 out of 17 cities and regions in the last local election that was held one year after the 2017 presidential election. This led to a dominant win for the party in the general elections in 2020. Meanwhile, the People Power Party won the presidential election based on its wins in last year’s by-elections for the mayors of Seoul and Busan. Therefore, it is true that the upcoming local elections are a battlefield critical for both parties. If the People Power Party wins, the new administration will be able to overcome the situation of the minor ruling party and the major opposition party in the National Assembly and find a driving force for its operation of state affairs. If the Democratic Party of Korea wins, the Yoon administration will face hurdles caused by the legislative power of the major opposition party and local powers from the beginning.

The Democratic Party of Korea said it would mobilize all resources of the party as if its life depends on it. There are talks about the roles of former Governor of Gyeonggi Province Lee Jae-myung. The People Power Party is also feeling a sense of crisis that the loss of the local elections will render the Yoon Suk-yeol administration powerless. Given the situation, there are no talks about balanced regional development or other local election issues while the localization of the central politics is getting worse. It is not unrelated to the situation where several figures who lost in party primaries or stepped down from candidacy right after the presidential election are running for the local election. There are even some figures who have been politically active in Seoul yet are trying to get nominated by some made-up connection with regions.

This is the eighth local elections since 1995. Local regions cannot avoid being affected by the center. However, the local elections have their own unique space. It should not be seen as the second round of the presidential election. In order to avoid criticism about the local elections, following some criticism about the presidential election, the candidates should compete with policy vision for local development for the remaining time.