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Plans geared up for early election

Mar 09,2017
The National Election Commission has created a plan for an early presidential election in case the Constitutional Court removes President Park Geun-hye from office.

The election watchdog created an administrative calendar assuming that the 19th presidential election will take place on May 9, 2017.

The National Assembly impeached Park on Dec. 9, 2016, and the Constitutional Court held an impeachment trial to rule on the legitimacy of the action. Hearings were concluded last week, and judges are currently deliberating the case. A ruling is expected to come as early as later this week.

If the court decides to uphold the impeachment, a successor must be elected within 60 days. The period is tight to prepare for a presidential election, including creation of a voter registry and preparation of polling stations and absentee voting, a source from the commission said.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is acting president, will decide the date. “Because the presidency will become vacant due to the impeachment, it will be a by-election,” the official said.

Using the law governing a by-election, the voting hours will be 6 a.m. till 8 p.m., two hours longer than in an ordinary election. Although it is a by-election, the presidential election date will be designated a holiday.

Registration for voters living outside the country will be completed 40 days before the election. That is far shorter than the registration period in a normal presidential election.

In the 18th presidential election, in which Park was elected, 222,389 out of 2.23 million voters living outside the country registered. Of them, 71.2 percent actually cast votes.

The Democratic Party, the largest party in the National Assembly, already asked the National Election Commission to manage its presidential primary. Primary planning has not started in other parties, including the ruling Liberty Korea Party, and they may not have enough time to ask the commission to oversee their races.

If the court strikes down the impeachment, Park’s presidential powers will be restored immediately. In that case, the next presidential election will take place as originally scheduled on Dec. 20, 2017 and Park’s term will end on Feb. 24, 2018.

BY PARK SEONG-HUN [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]