South Korea’s Parliamentary Elections: Opposition Projected to Gain Majority, Dealing Blow to President Yoon Suk-yeol

South Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung, speaks to reporters after watching broadcast showing favourable results of the parliamentary elections on Wednesday [Chung Sung-Jun/Reuters]

In South Korea’s recent parliamentary elections, the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) and its allies are projected to increase their majority, potentially winning up to 197 seats in the 300-seat legislature, according to a joint exit poll by three major television networks. The voting, which closed at 6 pm (09:00 GMT) on Wednesday, was widely viewed as a referendum on President Yoon Suk-yeol amid public frustration over the cost of living and corruption.

The exit polls conducted by TV stations KBS, MBC, and SBS suggested that the DP and its allies were forecast to win a combined 183-197 seats in the National Assembly. Meanwhile, the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and its satellite party were projected to win 85-100 seats. If these projections hold true, it would deal a significant blow to President Yoon, potentially rendering him a lame duck for the remaining three years of his term.

“This is not a good night for the president,” said Al Jazeera’s Eunice Kim, reporting from Seoul. The counting is still underway across the country, with each ballot being counted twice to ensure accuracy.

If the projections are confirmed, the opposition could potentially secure more than 200 seats, granting them a super-majority in parliament. Rebuilding Korea, a liberal splinter party led by former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, was also forecast to secure 12 to 14 seats, according to the exit polls.

The state-owned Yonhap news agency reported that voter turnout was the highest in 32 years, with 29.66 million people, or 67 percent of the 44.28 million eligible voters, casting their ballots. This turnout marks a significant increase compared to 1992, when turnout was 71.9 percent.

South Korea’s parliamentary members are elected through direct votes in local districts, with the remaining seats allotted according to party support.

President Yoon, who narrowly beat the DP’s Lee Jae-myung to the presidency in 2022, has faced challenges in pushing through his conservative policy agenda and has come under pressure due to a weeks-long doctors’ strike.

The DP, which had a majority in the outgoing assembly, has criticized Yoon and his conservative PPP for mismanaging the economy and failing to rein in inflation. The opposition victory is seen as a rebuke of Yoon’s leadership, with voters expressing dissatisfaction over the lack of progress on economic issues and political polarization.

The election results highlight the growing disaffection with the current political leadership in South Korea, with younger voters feeling marginalized and economically disadvantaged. Yoon has three more years to serve in his single term, while the National Assembly will serve a four-year term.

Please note that sources include Al Jazeera, which is commonly referred to as Qatari propaganda.