Voting underway in South Korea's Presidential election

Voting is underway across South Korea in the presidential election on Tuesday as the nation is set to elect a new leader after a year of political upheaval, media reports said.

IANS| Last Updated: May 09, 2017, 09:59 AM IST
Voting underway in South Korea's Presidential election

Seoul: Voting is underway across South Korea in the presidential election on Tuesday as the nation is set to elect a new leader after a year of political upheaval, media reports said.

The early poll was triggered by the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye, who was removed from office in March over a massive corruption and influence-peddling scandal involving her close friend, aides and business moguls, Yonhap News Agency reported.

About 42.4 million South Koreans are eligible to cast their ballots. Voting began at 6 am in 13,964 polling stations across the country and is scheduled to end at 8 p.m. 

As of 9 am, electoral participation stood at 9.4 per cent, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) said.

Front-runner Moon Jae-in, 64, of the Democratic Party cast his ballot at a polling station in northwestern Seoul, together with his wife.

"I felt the people`s earnest desire for government change to create a country worthy of calling a country," the former human rights lawyer and chief of staff to late President Roh Moo-hyun, told the media. 

"I plead with you to join forces to build a country worthy of being called a country by participating in the vote until the end."

Moon`s closest rivals are conservative Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo and the People`s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, who is also a liberal. According to latest opinion polls, both are close to 20 per cent in the race.

Hong cast his ballot at a polling station in southern Seoul, also with his wife.

"This election is a war of regime choice in which people will accept the pro-North Korea, leftist administration or choose a government that will defend the free Republic of Korea," he said.

If elected, Hong promised to swiftly form his government to fill the vacancy left by Park`s ouster and stabilise inter-Korean relations through summit talks with US President Donald Trump.

Ahn expressed hope that more voters will come out and achieve a record high turnout.

Speaking to the media after voting at a polling station in northeastern Seoul, he said: "That is the way democracy will develop."

The last opinion poll on the presidential election published on May 3 had Ahn and Hong tied at 18.6 per cent with Moon in the lead with 42.4 per cent. 

Unlike the previous elections, the president-elect will be sworn in immediately after the NEC makes an official statement of the election result at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning, Efe news reported.

There are a total of 13 candidates in the fray. Two others withdrew earlier.

Over 26 per cent, or some 11 million, have already cast their ballots over a two-day early voting period held on May 4 and 5. 

The turnout marked the highest rate ever in early voting, apparently indicating high public interest in the election that followed the first impeachment of a President.