Campaigns for general elections have kicked off, with both mainstream parties vowing victory, but the outlook remains unclear.
Thursday saw the start of the official campaign period for the April 15 general elections, which includes proportional representative parties for the first time, adding new variables to the mix.
Recent polls show that both the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and main opposition United Future Party’s support ratings, and those of their satellite parties, have slipped.
The ruling party has founded the Citizen Party and the main opposition created the Future Korea Party to field proportional representative candidates in a bid to expand their presence in the National Assembly.
A poll conducted by Realmeter earlier this month showed the Democratic Party’s figure slipping from 44.6 percent to 43 percent, and that of the United Future Party going from 30 percent to 28.2 percent. In the poll, Future Korea Party’s figure slipped 2.3 percentage points to 25.1 percent, and that of the Citizen Party fell by 9 percentage points to 20.8 percent.
While the two behemoths and their sister parties struggle, minor parties appear to be gaining. The Realmeter polls showed that the Openminjoo Party’s support grew 2.6 percentage points to 14.3 percent, while that of the Justice Party rose 2.3 percentage points to 8.2 percent.
The Openminjoo Party is a proportional representative party led by Rep. Sohn Hye-won and Chung Bong-ju. Chung and Sohn are former members of the ruling party, and both had their ties to the party cut following allegations of illegal activities.
While the main opposition United Future Party is lagging in polls, the party’s election committee chief Kim Chong-in says that current figures have little meaning.
“The outlook will appear after at least 10 days,” Kim said at the party’s office in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, saying he has in the past produced results that went against survey results.
“Even at the end, the results do not match the outlook. Looking at the past, I have not seen the results match the outlook.”
Kim’s party, headed by Hwang Kyo-ahn who served as prime minister for former President Park Geun-hye, is hoping to highlight the shortcomings of the Moon Jae-in administration in its campaign to “pass judgement” on the ruling bloc.
“Looking back on the economy over the past three years, it is very doubtful whether these people (the ruling bloc) can resolve the economic situation,” Kim said.
“If we reveal the state the government is in, the voters will respond.”
For the Democratic Party the uncertainties are twofold. In addition to the Openminjoo Party appearing to shake the support base of the Citizen Party, the ruling party has been dogged by questions surrounding its relationship with the Openminjoo Party.
With the Openminjoo Party being led by high-profile former Democratic Party members, questions of a possible alliance between the two continue to surface despite repeated denials from ruling party leaders.
On Thursday, Lee Nak-yon, former prime minister and head of the Democratic Party’s election committee, again denied any connection with the Openminjoo Party, saying that the Democratic Party had no role in the Openminjoo Party’s foundation, and they “have not imagined” any alliance.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com