Ruling party wins S. Korea poll amid coronavirus outbreak

The party of South Korean President Moon Jae-in has won a decisive victory in parliamentary elections, BBC reported today. South Korea was among the first countries with a major coronavirus outbreak to hold a national vote since the pandemic began. Safety and social distancing measures were put in place so that the election could take place as scheduled. With nearly all votes counted, Mr Moon’s Democratic Party won 163 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly. The party’s sister group, the Platform Party, was forecast to win a further 17 seats, giving the government a total of 180 seats. 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. Among the winning candidates for United Future was high-profile North Korean defector Thae Yong-ho. Mr Thae, a former senior diplomat at North Korea’s embassy in London, won a seat for the Gangnam district in Seoul. BBC said Mr Moon’s election victory is seen as a show of approval for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has been widely praised. It will give his government the largest majority in parliament South Korea has seen since it held its first democratic elections in 1987. It is also the first time in 16 years that left-leaning parties have secured a majority. In order to cast their ballots, voters had to clean their hands with sanitiser, wear face masks and plastic gloves, 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 that were then disinfected after each use. One voter, a young woman, told BBC Seoul correspondent Laura Bicker: “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.” According to BBC, there are currently about 60,000 people in quarantine due to the coronavirus in South Korea. Despite this, the overall turnout was more than 66%, the highest in 18 years, aided by the fact it was first time that 18 year olds were allowed to vote.

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