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South Korea

South Korea’s presidential contenders make final pitches on eve of election

The winner of the election is expected to be known early Wednesday

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 11:15pm

On the eve of South Korea’s election to choose a successor to ousted president Park Geun-hye, the candidates on Monday made last-ditch efforts to sway voters.

The latest voter surveys show Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party of Korea maintaining a solid lead over his two main rivals with some 35-40 per cent of support.

The polls show Ahn Cheol-soo of the centrist People’s Party and Hong Joon-pyo of the conservative Liberty Korea Party in a neck-and-neck race for second place.

“Please open a new world by overwhelmingly supporting me,” Moon, a former human rights lawyer and chief staff to the late liberal president Roh Moo-hyun, said in a statement released on Facebook.

Referring to rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and the sluggish local economy, Moon said South Korea is ready to overcome the challenges with reforms and efforts to unify the nation.

“The nation faces a situation of multiple crises, and the new president should start management of state affairs even without a transition committee,” Moon said.

Ahn, a former medical doctor and antivirus software developer, also sought support, saying he is confident of winning despite the poll results that have him far behind Moon.

“A great come-from-behind drama overturning all opinion surveys will be unfolding,” Ahn said in a campaign rally held in central Seoul, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Hong, a former prosecutor and South Gyeongsang Province governor, criticised Moon as being a pro-North Korea leftist and called on the nation’s conservative voters to support him.

“The election is a war as to whether a pro-North Korea leftist government will be chosen or a government that protects the free Republic of Korea will be chosen,” Hong said in a speech on the KBS TV network.

Moon, who is less hawkish on North Korea than Park and her predecessor, both conservatives, has been under attack from opponents who call his proposed “two-step” approach on Pyongyang too soft.

Tuesday’s snap election is being held seven months earlier than originally scheduled because of Park’s impeachment.

Park, who was the country’s first female leader, was imprisoned in March after being thrown out of office over a corruption and abuse-of-power scandal.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who has been serving concurrently as acting president since Park’s impeachment by parliament in December, decided not to run in the election.

Voting stations nationwide will be open for the country’s 31 million eligible voters from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The winner of the election is expected to be known in the early hours of Wednesday.

The winner will be sworn in as the new president for a full five-year term immediately, without going through a transition period for two months.

South Korea has adopted an early-voting system for those unable to go to the polls on Tuesday.

Voter turnout for the early voting, held for the first time for a presidential election, stood at 26.06 per cent after some 11 million out of the 42 million eligible voters voted last Thursday and Friday at some 3,500 polling stations across the country.