Ruling Democratic Party succeeds in winning majority of parliamentary seats for first time in 16 years.
The ruling party in South Korea clinched a landslide victory in the general elections held amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to unofficial results on Thursday.
With nearly all votes for the directly contested seats counted, the country’s election commission said the ruling Democratic Party and its satellite Platform Party secured 180 seats, three-fifths of the total, said Yonhap news agency.
South Korea held the quadrennial elections on Wednesday to fill the 300-member unicameral National Assembly — with 253 directly contested seats and 47 proportional representation slots.
The main opposition United Future Party and its sister party won 103 posts.
First in country’s recent history
This is the first time in 16 years that the ruling party succeeded in winning a majority of parliamentary seats. It also marks the biggest majority a party has claimed since the country adopted the direct presidential election system in 1987.
The victory is expected to provide fresh momentum to President Moon Jae-in’s policy drive during his remaining tenure.
As one of the world’s first nationwide elections held amid the coronavirus pandemic, the ballot was widely seen as a referendum on Moon, who has two more years in office and has been facing several challenges — from an economic slowdown to chilled inter-Korean relations and most recently, the virus pandemic.
This win is set to give him an upper hand in pushing ahead with his agenda as the country faces a virus pandemic and economic slowdown.
Despite concerns that the pandemic would dampen voting, tens of millions braved the virus to cast their ballots. More than 29 million were estimated to have voted, leading to a tentative voter turnout of 66.2 percent, the highest in 28 years.
New COVID-19 cases below 30 for fourth straight day
Meanwhile, the country on Thursday reported only 22 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the nation’s total infections to 10,613, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The death toll also increased to 229.
Thursday’s new virus cases marked a sharp drop from the Feb. 29 peak of 909 new cases. The country’s daily number of new virus cases has been below 50 for the last eight days.
The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Thursday that it removed travel restrictions for South Korea’s southeastern city of Daegu as new coronavirus cases in the area seem to have subsided.
In February, the USFK designated Daegu as a coronavirus “hot spot” and banned all service members from making nonessential travel to, from and around the city as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surged sharply there.
“Due to the hard work of the city of Daegu, USAG [U.S. Army Garrison] Daegu, and 19th ESC [U.S. military’s Expeditionary Sustainment Command], the USFK Commander has declared the Daegu area is no longer a Hot Spot off-limits area,” the USFK said, noting that the measures were effective Wednesday.
Daegu, once the epicenter of the virus outbreak in South Korea, has reported a far fewer number of new virus patients over the past several days. On Thursday, four new virus cases were confirmed in Daegu, with the total infections in the city standing at 6,827.
The novel coronavirus has spread to at least 185 countries and regions since emerging in Wuhan, China last December, with the U.S. and Europe now the hardest-hit areas.
More than 2 million cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll at more than 137,000 and nearly 517,000 recoveries, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
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