SEOUL– On the eve of the April 7 Seoul and Busan mayoral by-elections, rival parties scrambled to make final appeals to voters in the country’s two biggest cities Tuesday.

Voting for the two mayoral seats and 19 other regional public posts is set to begin at 6 a.m. and last till 8 p.m. on Wednesday at 3,459 polling stations across the country in by-elections that are deemed harbingers of public opinions ahead of next year’s presidential poll.

Leaders and candidates of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) were scheduled to crisscross the capital and the biggest port city in last-minute efforts to win voters Tuesday, the last day of the official 13-day campaign period for the elections.

Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon, acting DP chairman, hosted an online plenary party meeting from Busan to lend support to the party’s Busan mayoral candidate Kim Young-choon, in the first leg of last-day campaigning.

In Seoul, Rep. Lee Nak-yon, the DP’s election committee chairman, is scheduled to stop first at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul and move to eastern Seoul to rally support for the party’s Seoul mayoral candidate Park Young-sun.

Kim will then join Lee and Park in Seoul in the evening to cover western Seoul.

The PPP chief Kim Chong-in, meanwhile, plans to rally support for the party’s Seoul mayoral candidate Oh Se-hoon in Gangnam and Seocho Ward in southern Seoul, as well as Yongsan Ward, deemed traditional support bases for the conservative party.

In the evening, Kim will get together with Oh and floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young, as well as other key party figures in the university district of Shinchon in western Seoul for the finale of their 13-day journey of election campaigning.

The opposition party’s Busan mayoral candidate Park Heong-joon is also planning to crisscross the port city to make final appeals to voters.

The leadership of the PPP is confident that the double-digit leads the party’s candidates commanded in preelection opinion polls will continue into the elections.

“I am predicting that the overwhelming (opinion poll) margins (in favor of the PPP candidates) will hold out or get even bigger,” Joo said in a radio interview earlier in the day. He estimated that the PPP candidates may win the mayoral seats with a margin of at least 15 percentage points over their DP rivals.

The DP, however, was positive about the party’s potential to turn the tide.

“In previous opinion polls, the rates of (opinion poll) reactions among DP supporters were saliently low, but those reticent supporters of ours have started to speak up,” Lee, the DP’s election committee chief, said in a separate radio interview earlier in the day.

Lee predicted the elections to be a neck-and-neck race within a slim margin of 3 percentage points between the two parties, adding his party “has the possibility of winning.”

Rough results of the elections are expected to start emerging around midnight Wednesday.

In Seoul, 8.4 million voters are eligible to cast ballots for the mayoral election, while Busan has slightly more than 2.9 million qualified voters.

The turnout rate for early voting for the by-elections reached 20.54 percent last week, a record high for any by-election.

Source: Yonhap News Agency