The ruling Saenuri Party swept three out of the total four electoral districts in the by-elections on April 19, 2015. The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) lost all four districts. The remaining one district went to an opposition-oriented independent candidate.
The main cause of the loss of elections by the NPAD is attributed to the division in the party. The outstanding result of this loss of unity in the NPAD came in the form of plural opposition candidates in the same district vis-?-vis a single ruling party candidate, where the favorable votes were split among the opposition candidates, while the ruling party candidate was able to solidify the votes of his supporters.
Loss of the elections came as a great disappointment to the opposition camp because all four electoral districts had been considered as opposition-strong regions.
It is all the more so because the ruling Saenuri Party had been in a very difficult situation due to the outbreak of the most serious Sung Wan-jongCorruptionScandal that rocked the Saenuri Party and the entire ruling camp as well as the government of President Park Geun-hye. The extremely bad situation for the ruling camp made the political observers predict an easy win for the NPAD. This, however, proved to be to the contrary.
The NPAD, now led by the unsuccessful Presidential Candidate Rep. Moon Jae-in who lost the Presidential race to Madam Park Guen-hye in 2015, is divided principally into two major rival factions, one in favor of the late former President Roh Moo-hyun led by Moon and the other one supporting the late former President Kim Dae-jung led by Rep. Park Ji-won. Between the two rival groups are the centrist-oriented ‘non-main stream’leaders such as AhnCheol-soo and Kim Han-gill, former co-chairmen of the NPAD.
In the last national convention of the NPAD on Feb. 2 this year, the contest became a bout between Moon and Park due to the size of their two large factions in the party. The Moon faction won thanks to its relatively larger size compared with that of Park.
Moon also has a blame from many opposition politicians for his failure to win the Presidential elections in 2012 because he ran for the race instead of stronger Presidential candidate AhnCheol-soo who had prevailed over not only Moon but also the then Saenuri Presidential Candidate Park Geun-hye in opinion polls.
In the opposition-strongGwangjuindependent candidate Chun Jung-bae (former secretary of the latePresident Kim Dae-jung) won with 52.37 percent of the votes defeating the NPAD candidate.
The three Saenuri candidates won easy victories in Seoul and nearby cities. Shin Sang-jin won in SeongnamDistrictof theGyeonggi Province winning 55.9 percent of the votes and former Saenuri Party Incheon Metropolitan City MayorAhn Sang-soo won in Incheon with 54.11 percent of the votes.
In the most closely contested district of Gwanak in Seoul, Saenuri Candidate Oh Shin-hwanwon with 43.89 percent of the votes thanks to the split of the opposition votes between Jung Tae-ho and Chung Dong-young (former opposition Presidential candidate) who ran as an independent opposition candidate.
As a result of the by-elections, the Saenuri Party now has a total of 160 seats in the 298-member National Assembly, which leave only 130 to the opposition camp.
The voter turnout was 36 percent with 256,322 taking part in the voting.
The victory of the Saenuri Party in the by-elections gives a considerably increased power and influence to Chairman Kim Moo-sung of the Party, and makes him loom larger as the ruling party candidate for the Presidential race in 2017.
In contrast, the defeat of the NPAD puts Moon in a very difficult situation and there are possibilities of questioning the existence of ability of leading the party and considerably decreasing the degree of justification in his effort to run again in the 2017 race for the Presidency.
The biggest winner in the elections, however, is considered to be President Park Geun-hye. She and her government had been driven to bay due to the enormous corruption scandal that broke by the late former Chairman Sung An-jong of the Keangnam Business Group who committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree in the Inwang-san Mountain north of Seoul after leaving a note where he said he had given large sums of bribes to Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo, former Chief Presidential Secretary Kim Ki-choon and a number of other political leaders in the government party.
The election result now clears the way for President Park to go head with her reform plans to combat the corruption and various other issues, including, especially, the question of retirees’pensions.