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South Korean president's party fares well at polls

April 15, 2020

South Korea has held major election despite restrictions owing to the coronavirus pandemic. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea was expected to gain the most seats, perhaps benefiting from its handling of COVID-19.

Südkorea Seoul Coronavirus Parlamentswahlen
Image: Getty Images/C. Sung-Jun

President Moon Jae-in's  Democratic Party of Korea appeared on track to win a majority in South Korea's legislative elections, exit polls suggested on Wednesday.

South Korea held its election in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and under strict rules to ensure the safety of voters, which included the compulsory wearing of face masks and gloves.

While those who were self-quarantining at home and showed no symptoms could cast ballots immediately after the polls closed, those showing coronavirus symptoms were effectively disenfranchised — unless they had applied for a postal vote last month and used it.

Exit polls conducted by South Korean broadcasters showed Moon's party strengthening its position, appearing to capture between 139 to 158 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly.

Read more:  Could coronavirus win an election for South Korea's president?

The conservative opposition United Future Party was expected to garner 90 to 109 seats. Official results are expected in the coming hours.

Wednesday's vote was seen as a litmus test for Moon's government. The South Korean president has been in office since May 2017 with presidential elections currently scheduled for 2022.

Boosted by pandemic response

Voters flocked to the polls in numbers, according to exit polls, with turnout reaching at least 63.8 percent. It would be the highest turnout in a parliamentary election since at least 2000, despite considerable limitations on voting.

South Korea's relatively quick and effective handling of the epidemic appears to have been a boost the left-leaning Moon. The South Korean president had been languishing in the polls, but his personal approval rate stood at 54.4% last week, the highest in 17 months.

Just a few months ago he was being criticized over sluggish economic growth and his politics of peace with North Korea.

Using tech to battle COVID-19

jcg/msh (AFP, dpa)

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