x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Economic issues helps S Korea's conservatives win parliamentary elections

Official results from Wednesday's vote showed the New Frontier Party (NFP) had won 152 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly, 25 more than the centre-left opposition Democratic United Party (DUP).

SEOUL // South Korea's ruling conservatives won a parliamentary poll fought mostly on economic issues, with analysts saying yesterday voters opted for stability ahead of a presidential election in December.

Official results from Wednesday's vote showed the New Frontier Party (NFP) had won 152 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly, 25 more than the centre-left opposition Democratic United Party (DUP).

The DUP had been tipped to score an easy victory in earlier opinion polls but apparently threw away support by attacking an already-ratified free trade deal with the United States and the construction of a new naval base.

"South Koreans voted for stability," Hahm Sung-deuk, a professor of political science at the Korea University in Seoul, said. "Conservatives pulled together strongly in backing the NFP while the opposition appeared to be rudderless."

The ruling party, which had 165 seats in the outgoing parliament against 89 for the DUP, initially looked like it would struggle in its bid for re-election ahead of a campaign for a second successive presidential victory in December.

"People made wise choices," President Lee Myung-bak's office said. "The government will do its best to manage state affairs in a stable manner and take care of the people's livelihood."

Mr Lee cannot stand for a second term in December because of term limits.

The DUP chief, Han Myeong-sook, said she would "gravely accept the will of voters", amid growing calls by high-ranking party members to step down to take responsibility for the disappointing result.

"The DUP has practically failed in the election ... the party leadership has no choice but to resign to take responsibility," Park Jie-won, a DUP leader, said.

North Korea's impending rocket launch is currently the focus of international attention but barely figured in the election campaign in the South, which is used to tension with its communist neighbour.

Lee Jun-Han, a political-science professor at Incheon University said the NFP had campaigned successfully on its slogan of "development amid stability".

"But it remains to be seen whether the NFP will win the presidential poll as well," he said, noting it fell behind the DUP in key districts.

The leftist opposition Unified Progressive Party took 13 seats while five went to the right-wing Liberty Forward Party.

The result is expected to bolster the position of the NFP leader, Park Geun-Hye, a presidential hopeful. She has tried to rebuild the party since taking over in December last year.