Breaking News Analysis: Conservatives Sweep the Low-Turnout Local Elections

The core conservative voters carried the elections held just three months after the presidential election.

Breaking News Analysis: Conservatives Sweep the Low-Turnout Local Elections

Image: Local Election vote counts as of 11:39 p.m. KST. Credit:

In the Local Elections 지방선거 that was held only three months after the hard-fought presidential election, the ruling People Power Party 국민의힘 is on track to win 13 out of 17 of South Korea's largest local jurisdictions in a thoroughgoing victory.

Among the 17 provincial governors and metropolitan cities - the highest local jurisdictions of South Korea that serve as the barometer for Local Elections - the opposition Democratic Party 민주당 could only salvage the traditional strongholds of Gwangju 광주, Jeollabuk-do Province 전라북도, Jeollanam-do Province 전라남도 and Jeju-do Province 제주도.

Particularly stinging for the liberals are the defeats in all three major jurisdictions in the Seoul metro area - Seoul 서울, Incheon 인천 and Gyeonggi-do Province 경기도 - where urban white collar votes traditionally formed a solid base of support for the Democratic Party. Former Democratic Party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung 이재명 전 민주당 대선후보, however, won the Assembly by-election in the Incheon Gyeyang B 인천 계양 을 district.

The final turnout for the Local Elections was 50.9%, the second-lowest turnout for Local Elections and lowest since 2002. The low turnout likely reflects the fatigue from the presidential election, which was the closest in South Korean history. With low-engagement and moderate voters staying home, the core conservative supporters - voters who are older than 60 years old - largely determined the elections.

UPDATE: In a stunning upset, the Democratic Party's Kim Dong-yeon 김동연 edged out a win against People Power Party's Kim Eun-hye 김은혜 with 0.06% margin after more than 13 hours of counting the votes. Please read the next week's TBR newsletter for more analysis.

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