TOKYO – South Korea’s top party has lost its majority in the National Assembly, halting a blow to President Park Geun-hye through complicating the path and making it a lot tougher for her to advance her legislative agenda. The results came as a surprise by the time many analysts were expecting that the Saenuri Party would have its majority increased. Moreover, some even said that it could win a supermajority of 180 seats in the 300-seat legislature, making the outcome very unexpected.
But then again with nearly 70 percent of the votes counted by early Thursday morning, Park’s Saenuri Party was proposed to win only 132 seats. Marking this as the first time in 16 years where a ruling party has not succeeded to keep a majority. “We humbly accept the election results,” Ahn Hyoung-hwan, a spokesman for the ruling party’s election task force, told reporters. “We will be reborn as the political party that will communicate with people and win their trust.”
Early Thursday, tallies from the National Election Commission suggested that the main opposition Minjoo Party, could secure 105 seats. The People’s Party, which broke off from the main opposition, appeared to be on its way to winning 36 seats, while independents could win 12 seats, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
Led by Ahn Cheol-soo ,this would be a big win for the People’s Party, a software developer who entered politics on a pledge to shake up the two-party system. On the other side, analysts said before the election that if it could win 30 seats, the People’s Party would become a significant negotiating bloc in the assembly.
South Korea has a strong-president system; however Wednesday’s results hasten the arrival of the period for Park, in which South Korean presidents traditionally have trouble getting the simplest things done. Park’s five-year term expires in early 2018, and South Koreans will go to the polls to elect a new president at the end of next year.
Although North Korea has been threatening to attack the South and has been firing missiles on a regular basis, it was not the major issue of this election. The weak economy was at the forefront of voters’ minds.
Economic growth was 2.6 percent last year – paltry by South Korean standards – and unemployment has been rising, with the jobless rate among young people hitting 12.5 percent in February, the worst since record-keeping began 20 years ago. The economic downturn in China, a major importer of South Korean goods, has played a large role in that.
Park had vowed to revive the economy and to create more jobs, but her efforts to reform the labor market have been controversial, and South Koreans complain that the economy is still in bad shape.
Turnout was estimated by the election commission at 58 percent, the Associated Press reported. That was higher than four years ago.