SEOUL, South Korean parties ramped up their campaigns to appeal for voters Thursday, one day before two days of early voting for the June 13 local elections and parliamentary by-elections.
The ruling Democratic Party (DP) is seeking to boost voter turnout in early voting in an effort to cement what's expected to be a sweeping victory in both elections on the back of high public support for President Moon Jae-in.
The party is wary of the possibility that young voters may skip the polls on the assumption that the DP will easily win.
"President Moon will cast ballots Friday and I will do so on Saturday to appeal for more voters to join the early voting," said Choo Mi-ae, the chief of the ruling party.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) is lashing out at the government's policy on raising the minimum wage, which it says is hurting job growth.
The LKP is hoping that more conservative voters will come out after keeping a low profile on political issues. The party is still reeling from the fallout of last year's ouster of former President Park Geun-hye due to a corruption scandal.
At stake in the local election is a total of 4,016 posts, including 17 metropolitan mayors and provincial governors. By-elections will be also held to fill 12 vacant parliamentary seats.
Recent opinion polls show that the DP is leading the races by a wide margin.
The governing DP is leading the parliamentary races in 11 of 12 contested districts while the LKP might not win a single seat, according to a survey commissioned by three major broadcasters and released Monday.
The biggest battleground for the local elections is the capital Seoul where some 20 percent of the country's population of 52 million resides. The Seoul mayoralty carries extra weight as it is often deemed a stepping stone to the presidency.
Incumbent Mayor Park Won-soon won a support rate of 49.3 percent, followed by Kim Moon-soo of the LKP with 13.6 percent and Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party with 10.7 percent, according to a separate poll commissioned by the three broadcasters.
There is still speculation that Kim and Ahn may seek to merge their candidacies to compete against Park. Both sides are demanding that the other part drop their bid to make way for a single candidacy.
Ahn, a former presidential candidate, was a front-runner ahead of the 2011 by-election for Seoul mayor but dropped his bid and supported Park.
Time is running out for the potential announcement of a single candidacy, as the impact of such a move would be limited after early voting begins Friday.
The three Seoul mayoral candidates and Kim Jong-min of the minor Justice Party will hold a second round of TV debates late Thursday.
The portion of swing voters is believed to be in the 10-percent range, according to recent polls. But some surveys showed that in the southeastern city of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, which are the LKP's traditional strongholds of the LKP, around 40 percent of voters are undecided.
Three out of 10 voters said that they would cast their ballots during the early voting period, according to a survey conducted by Realmeter.
It said that 28.1 percent of those surveyed expressed a willingness to participate in early voting, while 36.4 percent said that they would vote on election day. It showed that 33.5 percent had not decided when to vote.
Source: Yonhap News Agency