Updated June. 06, 2014 02:32
Regarding Wednesdays local elections, Yoon Sang-hyun, the secretary general of the ruling Saenuri Party, said, Although (we) faced very difficult situations when candidates of the Unified Progressive Party withdrew their candidacy in Busan and Gyeonggi Province, we defended well by winning in the two regions. The ruling party won in eight regions among the 17 metropolitan cities and provinces. The party lost one post compared to the past, but it sees the results not so bad considering the impact of Sewol ferry disaster.
But is it the right interpretation of public opinions reflected in the local elections? Compared to the 2012 presidential election, approval ratings for the Saenuri Party have declined in 13 metropolitan cities and provinces. In particular, the figures dropped by 24.19 percent and 9.17% percent in Daegu and Busan respectively, the partys traditional supporting base. In the Chungcheong provinces, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy won gubernatorial races in both North and South Chungcheong as well as mayoral races in Daejeon and Sejong. In Seoul where Oh Se-hun from Saenuri Party won over Han Myung-suk from the then main opposition party in a neck-and-neck race four years ago, the incumbent mayor Park Won-soon defeated Saenuri Party candidate Chung Mong-joon by a big margin.
In Daegu, the hometown of President Park Geun-hye, NPAD candidate Kim Bu-kyum gained 40.33 percent of the votes despite the defeat. (He won 40.4 percent of votes in the 2012 general election in the same city.) This sends a signal to the Saenuri Party that even the strong supporting base may be shaken if it continues to be complacent. The same goes for Busan. De-facto opposition candidate Oh Geo-don got 49.34 percent in the mayoral race. In education superintendent elections, voters in 13 out of the 17 metropolitan and provincial areas opted for progressive education chiefs.
The Korean people are asking the political circle what changes the Park Geun-hye administration and the ruling Saenuri Party have made since the sinking of the Sewol ferry. Ahn Dae-hee, the prime minister nominee, made a resignation. Unless the government swiftly recovers peoples confidence through the appointment of prime minister and the chief of the National Intelligence Service, the administration will lose its momentum to handle state affairs. To push forward with personnel reform, reshuffling of the Presidents Office should not be postponed.
Seven incumbent lawmakers from the Saenuri Party ran for the local elections, and as a result, its total number of seats in the National Assembly has reduced to 149. The party still holds a majority based on the number of incumbent lawmakers. But according to the results of the by-election on July 30, it may not be able to keep the majority. If the government continues disappoint the people through the parliamentary investigation related to the Sewol ferry disaster and the handling of various bills for national rebuilding, no one will listen to the partys call for supporting the president. There is a criticism that the Saenuri Party is not being united because pro-Park faction members manage the party without clear vision or strategies. In this state, the party cannot lead the rebuilding of Korea. The local elections are over, but the judgment of the Korean people is not over yet.