Gyeonggi, Incheon will see fierce battle

Nation to vote in local elections today

Gyeonggi Province and Incheon have emerged as the hottest battlefields between the ruling Saenuri Party and main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) in the local elections being held today, according to experts Tuesday.

They also said Busan and Gwangju are also decisive areas for the two parties in their respective showdowns against independent rivals there.

Among 17 metropolitan cities and provinces, the Saenuri Party leads in six ― Daegu, North and South Gyeongsang provinces, Ulsan, Daejeon and Jeju. The NPAD dominates four ― Seoul, South Chungcheong Province, as well as North and South Jeolla provinces.

Gyeonggi Province and Incheon are among seven fiercely contested regions ― the others are Busan, Gwangju, Gangwon Province, North Chungcheong Province and Sejong City.

Nearly half of the country’s population lives in Seoul, Incheon and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province. Choi Chang-ryul, a politics professor at Yongin University, said defeat in the Seoul metropolitan area would deal a severe blow to the loser.

“The Saenuri Party needs to win at least in Gyeonggi Province or Incheon, because the NPAD clearly leads in the nation’s capital,” Choi said. He was referring to NPAD’s Seoul mayoral candidate Park Won-soon who has widened the gap to up to 20 percentage points against his rival, the Saenuri Party’s Chung Mong-joon, in polls. “It will make a big difference whether the ruling party loses one or two out of those three regions.”

Several surveys showed the Saenuri Party’s Nam Kyung-pil is in a neck-to-neck race against the NPAD’s Kim Jin-pyo.

The polls also showed the ruling party’s Yoo Jeong-bok is trailing behind his NPAD contender Song Young-gil who is bidding for reelection as mayor of Incheon.

Another expert echoed Choi’s view.

“The Seoul metropolitan area has political significance and losing two out of the three regions (Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province) will be fatal for either party,” said Shin Yul, a political science professor at Myongji University. “However, it is possible that the Saenuri Party could win all three.”

The gap between Park and Chung is not as wide as surveys showed, according to Shin who referred to his own study taken after May 29 when further polls for the local elections were banned by the National Election Commission.

Both analysts agreed that the Saenuri Party and the NPAD would win in their respective strongholds ― Busan and Gwangju.

In the port city of Busan, polls showed the ruling party’s Seo Byung-soo has been in a close race with independent Oh Keo-don, a former maritime minister. In Gwangju, the NPAD’s Yoon Jang-hyun has been in a neck-and-neck race with Kang Un-tae who is bidding for a second mayoral term.

“A loss against an independent will undermine the party’s image, and the case will be worse for the NPAD,” Shin said. He cited NPAD’s co-chairman Ahn Cheol-soo who favored Yoon for the Gwangju mayoral candidate over Kang to increase his muscle within the party. Kang left the NPAD to protest the decision and is running as an independent. By Yi Whan-woo The korea times

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