S. Korea must postpone April general elections

Feb 27, 2020, 08:12 am

print page small font big font

facebook share

tweet share

The National Assembly passed a set of bills to beef up government response to infectious diseases on Feb. 26, 2020./ Photographed by Song Eui-joo

By AsiaToday reporters Lim Yoo-jin & Woo Sung-min 

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, growing voices are urging to postpone the upcoming general elections set for April 15. With only some 40 days ahead of the elections, the number of confirmed cases reached over 1,200 with 12 deaths - 37 days since the country’s first case was reported. 

J.P. Morgan Chase said the escalating coronavirus crisis in Korea could reach a peak March 20 with as many as 10,000 infections. According to a survey, more than half of South Koreans agree that the 21st general elections should be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The poll was conducted to 1,008 people aged 18 or older from February 24-25 by Embrain Public requested by News1. 55.7 percent of respondents agreed that the elections should be delayed. 

There are growing calls for the government’s review of postponing the general elections to prepare for the worst scenario. In national disaster situations, the government should consider the right to national health first. Many experts point out the government should review the postponement if confirmed cases continue to rise. In a phone interview with AsiaToday, Hangil Research Director Kim Chang-kwon said, “If the coronavirus outbreak does not reach its inflection point this weekend, it would be the right time to think about postponing the general elections.”

“What’s most important is what the public is thinking now, apart from the opinions of politicians and experts,” Kim said. “The answer will come if rival parties recognize the current situation of the public.”

Experts believe the general elections could be delayed as long as a month if possible. “Considering the termination of the term of the lawmakers, the April 15 election could be postponed to May 15,” Kim said. “Since lawmakers’ term expires on May 31, the general elections could virtually take place before the term expires,” said political critic Kim Soo-min. 

The coronavirus outbreak is causing severe disruption to political parties’ nomination screening. The main opposition United Future Party (UFP) postponed its planned webcam interview with those who have applied for nomations to run in constituencies in Daegu and North Gyeongsang region (collectively known as TK region) to early next month. Their preparation for the general election is roughly 13 days behind and they dare to run an election campaign face-to-face.

Many points out it is not enough to attract public attention even if each party announces its nominee amid the coronavirus outbreak. If voters refuse to turn up to vote due to fear of contracting the coronavirus, it could end up with a low turnout figure. Besides, crowded polling stations are vulnerable to the virus. 

Despite the situation, the political community has refrained from making official statements of the postponement. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) is concerned that the postponement could spark negative publicity over the management of the coronavirus outbreak. The main opposition UFP believes the government and the ruling party’s response to the coronavirus outbreak could affect the general elections. 

#general elections #April 15 #postponement #coronavirus 
Copyright by Asiatoday