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SKoreans vote in parliamentary by-elections

SKoreans vote in parliamentary by-elections

South Koreans voted in parliamentary by-elections Wednesday seen as a gauge of support for President Lee Myung-bak and his administration's attempt to scale back a contentious project to move several government ministries out of Seoul.
The elections involve five parliamentary seats. Results will not affect the general makeup of the 289-seat National Assembly where Lee's ruling Grand National Party has a majority with 167 seats compared to the main opposition Democratic Party's 83.
But the polls come as Lee's approval ratings are recovering from lows during last year's leadership crisis over a beef import deal with the United States, and a good showing for the ruling party could give him a fresh mandate ahead of his third year in office.
The elections are also expected to affect the government's attempt to scale back a project _ initiated by the previous administration _ to relocate nine of 15 government ministries away from Seoul to a provincial region in central South Korea.
The Lee administration believes it is inefficient to scatter government offices.
The project has been one of the hottest issues in South Korean politics for months, as opposition parties and residents in the relocation area demand the government stick with the original plan undertaken to boost regional development.
Lee's popularity has been increasing this year amid efforts to reshape his image as a leader who cares for ordinary people and puts more emphasis on bread-and-butter issues, like providing cheaper housing and loans.
His approval ratings had plunged last year after a decision to resume U.S. beef imports angered South Koreans concerned about mad cow disease.
Wednesday's polls, which opened at 6 a.m. (2100 GMT Tuesday), are scheduled to close at 8 p.m. (1100 GMT). Results are expected late Wednesday.
Voter turnout was 8.6 percent as of 9 a.m., the National Election Commission said.


Updated : 2021-06-18 16:49 GMT+08:00