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Moon Jae-in has solid lead in presidential election: exit poll

May 09,2017
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Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party seemed headed to the Blue House, winning 41.4 percent in an exit poll on Tuesday in the country’s first presidential snap election.

Hong Joon-pyo, a conservative maverick from the Liberty Korea Party, scored 23.3 percent in the poll, jointly conducted by three terrestrial broadcasters. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party recorded 21.8 percent; Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party 7.1 percent and Sim Sang-jeung of the Justice Party 5.9 percent.

Voter turnout was very high Tuesday. According to the National Election Commission, 75.1 percent of more than 42.43 million eligible voters cast ballots to elect the country’s 19th president as of 7 p.m., including early voting that took place on Thursday and Friday.

Tuesday’s election is a landmark in the country’s political history, taking place after presidency of Park Geun-hye was terminated in March through an impeachment process in the aftermath of a massive abuse of power and corruption scandal. Through the two-month campaign, almost all candidates pledged to end or combat decades-long cozy relations between politics and big business.

Moon, who was narrowly defeated by Park in the 2012 presidential election, is a 64-year-old former human rights lawyer. He promoted a series of liberal policies, including greater engagement with North Korea and reform of Korea’s chaebol, or conglomerates. He also pledged to overhaul the criminal justice system and amend the constitution to introduce a new governing system that would reduce the power of the president.

The 19th presidential election had 13 candidates, the largest number ever. The ballots had 15, but two withdrew on the eve of the election.

The exit poll was jointly conducted by three terrestrial broadcasters from 6 a.m. till 8 p.m. Tuesday outside 330 voting stations on about 99,000 voters. Three polling companies were hired to dispatch 1,650 researchers to survey every fifth person who completed voting.

The accuracy of the exit poll, however, remains uncertain, as no surveys were conducted for early voting on Thursday and Friday. The turnout for early voting was significant: 26.06 percent of eligible voters.

The broadcasters, therefore, decided to calibrate the exit poll with an estimated outcome for the early voting based on demographic information of the early voters offered by the National Election Commission.

The highest turnout in Korean history was 89.2 percent in 1987, when the country first introduced direct elections. Turnout then dropped to 81.9 percent in 1992, 80.7 percent in 1997, 70.8 percent in 2002 and 63 percent in 2007.

The 42.43 million voters eligible to cast ballots Tuesday were 2 million more than eligible voters in the 2012 presidential election.

Of the major candidates, Moon was largely supported by voters under 60 and even had support in all regions of the country. Hong gained support from older voters, according to previous opinion polls. Moon represented liberals, while Hong was backed by conservative.

The number of elderly voters increased as Korea’s population ages. Voters older than 50 constituted 32.8 percent of the eligible voters, up from 29.9 percent in 2012. In contrast, the number of voters in their 30s and 40s decreased. They comprised 38.2 percent of the eligible voters, down from 41.9 percent in 2012.

The number of voters in their 20s went up slightly, from 6.617 million in 2012 to 6.764 million.

According to the National Election Commission, the ballot counting process will start around 8:30 p.m. at 251 stations nationwide. The process is expected to be completed around 6 or 7 a.m. on Wednesday, and a winner can be called around 2 a.m. on Wednesday.

The commission will hold a meeting Wednesday morning after it combines results from local commissions. The head of the commission will announce the winner between 8 and 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

Because it is an early election to fill the vacancy created by the termination of Park presidency, the five-year tenure of the new president will begin as soon as the National Election Commission finalizes the winner. The new president won’t have time to form a transition committee and will immediately take control of the military.

Swearing-in arrangements have yet to be decided.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]