Virus response gives South Korea’s ruling party landslide win

Virus response gives S Korea's ruling party landslide win
People cast their votes in strict measures because of the coronavirus outbreak. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times, Seoul: South Korea’s ruling party won for another term after it claimed a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, with voters backing the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

South Korea was among the first country to conduct a national election since the pandemic began.

Strict social distancing and safety measures were in place for the vote.

With nearly all votes counted, President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party won 163 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly.

The Platform Party, a sister group of the Democratic Party was forecast to win a further 17 seats, giving the government a total of 180 seats.

A high-profile North Korean defector Thae Yong-ho is among who has won parliament seats. Mr Thae, a former senior diplomat at North Korea’s embassy in London, won a seat for the Gangnam district in Seoul.

Although 35 parties put forward candidates, the race was between the left-leaning Democratic Party and the conservative opposition, United Future Party. United Future and its parliamentary partners are expected to win 103 seats.

It is the first time in 16 years that left-leaning parties have secured a majority in South Korea.

How were people able to vote?

In order to cast their ballots, voters had to wear masks and plastic gloves, clean their hands with sanitiser, stand at least one metre (3ft) apart, and have their temperatures taken.

Anyone with a temperature above 37.5C had to cast their vote in separate booths. The booths were then disinfected after each use.

“I thought maybe the election should be postponed because people wouldn’t turn up. But now that I’m here and see so many others, I’m not worried,” a young voter told BBC.

Currently, 60,000 people in the country are in quarantine due to coronavirus.

Despite this, the voter turnout was more than 66%, which is the highest in 18 years, aided by the fact it was first time that 18-year-olds were allowed to vote.

About 26% of the population cast their votes in advance, either in early polling stations or by post stations set up in quarantine stations on Friday and Saturday.

People who had already tested positive for coronavirus were under strict instructions to only vote at certain times and at specially designated polling stations. They were also forbidden from using public transport and were only allowed to take their won car or to walk.

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