South Korean national assembly elections — final results

In concert with earlier reports from Seoul, the Saenuri Party has won yesterday’s elections to fill the seats of the National Assembly.

According to the Republic of Korea’s National Election Commission, Saenuri will take 152 seats to just 127 seats for the Democratic United Party and 13 seats for the DUP’s ally, the Unified Progressive Party.  The conservative Liberal Forward Party has won five seats.

UPDATE (April 13): See after the jump an election map showing the regional results in the legislative elections.  As is the key to much of Korean politics — six of the country’s eight presidents have come from North Gyeongsang province in the southeast of the country; the two most recent, Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak, hail from South Gyeongsang province.  During Park Chung-hee’s regime from 1961 to 1979, Gyeongsang — which was historically the strongest of South Korea’s historical kingdoms — reaped beneficial treatment from the national government, which only furthered social stigma against Koreans from Jeolla province, which today remains a DUP strongold.  The DUP also performed well in Seoul, another traditional DUP stronghold.

Continue reading South Korean national assembly elections — final results

Mexican race still Peña Nieto’s to lose


Despite decisively winning the presidential nomination of the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional) in February and emerging in the Mexican presidential race with a flash,  Josefina Vázquez Mota has spent the last week attempt to rejuvenate her campaign and unite the PAN in her cause, even as the latest polls show that Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional), remains the strong favorite to win the Mexican presidency on July 1.

The latest polls indicate Peña Nieto leads with 38% of the vote to just 25% for Vázquez Mota and 19% for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of the PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática), who came within a fraction of a percentage of winning the presidency in 2006.

In the 12 days since the campaign formally started, Vázquez Mota has been plagued by missteps— the former education minister’s campaign was ridiculed when her team misspelled the Mexican state of Tlaxcala as ‘Tlazcala’ on Twitter, for example. 

She has tried to draw a line around her campaign this week, starting with a show of PAN unity.  Her rival for the PAN nomination, former finance minister Ernesto Cordero, appeared at a press conference with Vázquez Mota on Monday, and Luisa María Calderón, the sister of outgoing, term-limited president Felipe Calderón, has been put in charge of the get-out-the-vote effort in Calderón’s home state of Michoacán.  Cordero was viewed as Calderón’s favorite and the favorite of many of the PAN elite during the nomination race.

Nonetheless, even today, former president Vicente Fox opined that it would take a miracle for Vázquez Mota to defeat the PRI and win the presidency:

Lo racional me dice que ahora lo que tenemos que hacer es de esa opción (el PRI) que puede llegar a la Presidencia, obligarla a ser buena, obligarla a que deje de sere nostálgico de aquel pasado, de aquellos niveles de corrupción y autoritarismo que vivimos antes, que sea una nueva generación de priístas.

[Translated into English: My rationality tells me that, we have the real option of (the PRI) winning the president, it will be obligated to be good, obligated to stop being nostalgic for the past, those levels of corruption and authoritarianism through which we lived before, that it will be a new generation of PRIístas.]

In the meanwhile, Peña Nieto has been off to an energetic start, avoiding some of the gaffes he endured over the winter — indeed, he has been able to outflank the traditionally business-friendly PAN by suggesting more private-sector involvement in — and potentially a public stock listing for — Mexico’s state-owned oil monopoly, Pemex.  On the campaign trail, he has praised the reforms of the Brazilian government in the 1990s to open its similar oil monopoly, Petrobras, to private investment.  Mexico is the world’s seventh-largest oil exporter, producing upwards of 2.5 million barrels per day. Continue reading Mexican race still Peña Nieto’s to lose

Greek election date set for May 6

We (finally) have a date for the Greek parliamentary elections: May 6.

Under the Greek election system, which will be conducted under a new 2007 electoral law, 250 of the 300 seats in the Hellenic Parliament will be awarded on the basis of proportional representation (only if the national tally exceeds 3% of the total vote, however).  The additional 50 seats will be awarded to the party that wins the leading number of votes.

Currently, the top two vote-winners in polls are Greece’s two longtime parties: New Democracy (Νέα Δημοκρατία), which has led most polls going into the vote with just over 20% of likely voters, and PASOK (the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, or Πανελλήνιο Σοσιαλιστικό Κίνημα), which polls anywhere from 12% to 16% under its new leader, former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos

Both PASOK and New Democracy support the current round of bailouts from the ‘troika’ of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, including regulatory reforms and controversial austerity measures that have led to widespread cuts in public spending, strong disapproval from the Greek electorate and have helped stall Greek GDP growth.  Together, PASOK and New Democracy approved the appointment of current prime minister Lucas Papademos, who succeeded former PASOK prime minister George Papandreou (who will nonetheless be standing for election on May 6 in Achaia). 

Accordingly, both PASOK and New Democracy are at near-record levels of unpopularity heading into the May 6 election.

The latest poll from Public Issue, however, shows New Democracy with just 19% support and PASOK with 14.5%, which is too little to form a coalition — any party (or parties) need to win between 36% and 39% of the total vote to command enough seats to govern.  Taken together, the 33.5% represents the lowest total of the two of any poll to date.

Nonetheless, at least four anti-bailout parties have also emerged with anywhere between 8% and 12% of the vote, making it likely that both ND and PASOK will receive traditionally lower support than ever.  The KKE, Greece’s longtime Communist Party, wins 11%, SYRIZA, a coalition of the Radical Left no longer associated with the KKE, wins 13%, DIMAR — the “Democratic Left,” a splinter group from SYRIZA, wins 12%.  Meanwhile, the Independent Greeks, an anti-austerity group that splintered from New Democracy, also wins 11%.  The neo-fascist Golden Dawn polled 5% and each of the Ecologist Greens and the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally polled 3%.

Of Ahn and Angry Birds: the political culture that is South Korea

This video comes to us from Ahn Chul-soo, who is emerging as a potential independent presidential candidate in the South Korean election in December of this year.

Ahn comes to politics from the business world — he founded AhnLab, Inc., an antivirus software company, and he now serves as the dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University.

In the clip above, Ahn uses Angry Birds to make a point to South Korean voters to turn out to today’s (now completed) legislative election:

“Bad pigs are hiding behind the castle, the solid establishment. These good birds are throwing themselves to break the castle,” Mr. Ahn said.

Then a voice asks him what he would do if the election turnout is over 70%, and he answers he would sing. “Since I can’t sing, it is a big sacrifice,” he said.

But the voice insists he dance as well. He laughs and reluctantly agrees. The voice then wraps up the interview by declaring “Mr. Ahn will sing and dance in mini-skirt!” Mr. Ahn looks clearly embarrassed and throws the Angry Bird stuffed animal he was holding towards the camera. Then a message appears on screen, “Angry?? Just Vote!”

Ahn rose to political prominence last year with a series of appearances and commentaries on South Korean politics.  He currently garners significant support in pre-election polls as a credible, if not leading, presidential candidate.  Ahn met with Microsoft founder Bill Gates in Seattle earlier this year, furthering speculation that the one-time IT entrepreneur will make a run at the Blue House (the ROK’s presidential home).

Upset win for Saenuri Party in South Korea

With just over half of the ballots counted, Korean news sources are projecting that the governing Saenuri Party (새누리당 or the ‘Saenuri-dang’) will win, however slightly, more seats than the opposition in South Korea’s April 11 parliamentary elections.

The Saenuri Party is forecast to win about 144 seats in the South Korea national assembly — it currently holds 165 under current leader and likely future presidential candidate Park Geun-hye, daughter of the former ROK leader.

The victory is also good news — or at least a reprieve — for embattled president Lee Myung-bak, whose one-time popularity has plummeted due to the stagnant economy, high unemployment and scandals over illegal internal surveillance.  Analysts, however, cautioned a rough road ahead for Lee, who will be a convenient punching bag ahead of December’s presidential election.

Prior to today’s election, the Democratic United Party (민주통합당, or the ‘Minju Tonghap-dang’) faced skepticism over the troubles it had in formalizing an alliance with the Unified Progressive Party, but looked to have an odds-on even chance at worst of winning the election.

Although the DUP will add seats to the 80 seats it held prior to the election, its inability to win outright will be seen as somewhat of a disappointment on expectations, given the current president’s unpopularity — so much so that the Saenuri Party only earlier this year, under Park’s leadership, rebranded itself from is previous “Grand National Party” moniker.

As of 11:30 pm South Korean time, the Saenuri Party had won or was leading in 127 out of a total of 246 constituencies with the DUP carrying 107, according to the National Election Commission. The United Progress Party (UPP), the DUP’s ally, had won or was leading in six.

Park will now almost certainly be the Saenuri presidential candidate in the December election (although Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim Moon-soo remains a potential alternative).  Although the DUP’s potential candidate is less clear following the result, the leading contender remains former Roh administration chief of staff Moon Jae-in, who won election today in a district in Busan.  In addition, IT entrepreneur and Seoul National University professor Ahn Chul-soo has also been seen as a popular potential independent candidate.

The Korea Times highlights some of the winners and losers in individual races — the losers include a former Saenuri Party leader, Hong Joon-pyo.  Among the highlights are more representation among the so-called ‘486 generation’ — those who were born in the 1960s and were student activists in the fight for democracy in the 1980s (the ‘4’ notes that they are in their 40s — the original term was ‘386’ generation when coined in the 1980s).

Also among the new National Assembly members will be Cho Myung-chul, the first North Korean defector to be elected in South Korea (Cho was listed fourth on Saenuri’s list of proportional representation candidates).