Korean legislative elections

South Korea held legislative elections today.

South Korea is one of the few remaining presidential systems (as opposed to semi-presidential systems) to hold only non-concurrent presidential and legislative elections. The current president, Lee Myung-bak, was elected in 2007 (with 48.7% of the vote).

Today’s election is the second National Assembly election since the president took office. In 2008, his party, the Grand National Party, won 37.4% of the party-list votes and 153 of the 299 seats, which represented an increase of 32 seats for the party on the previous total. So far, so good for the expectation that presidents’ parties gain in non-concurrent elections held early in their terms (“honeymoon elections”, as I have called them in my work on the political consequences of electoral cycles).

With this being the second election of the president’s term, his party has lost seats, right? Not so fast. Preliminary indications are that “South Korea’s ruling conservatives have scored an upset victory” (VOA).

The president’s supporters have rebranded their party as New Frontier. Party alignments and labels are not very stable in South Korea. In any case, I suppose voters know who the president’s allies are, and, going against expectations of both Korea experts and those of us who watch trends in non-concurrent elections, those allies have done well in a late-term election.

Presidents in South Korea are limited to a single term. The next president will be elected in December this year.

The legislature is elected via a Mixed-Member Majoritarian (MMM or “parallel”) system.

3 thoughts on “Korean legislative elections

  1. Maybe I should not seem so surprised that the president’s party did so well. An assembly election preceding a presidential election by a matter of months could be shaped more by political test of strength leading into the looming election than by the current presidency. This is the “counter-honeymoom election” argument that I have also made in some published work, and in past F&V entries.

    I generally think of the counter-honeymoon as being just a few months, at most, before the next president is elected. But there is no clear cutoff.

    The VOA article I linked to above says, “The current front-runner to succeed President Lee is the leader of the New Frontier Party, Park Geun-hye. She is the daughter of former president Park Chung-hee…”

    I wonder if evaluations of her candidacy played a part in the outcome of these elections. If so, we would have clear counter-honeymoon tendencies at work.

  2. I live in Korea, and what I’ve heard is that the Saenuri party has more or less distanced itself from the President during the campaign, or at least emphasized support for reforms rather than support of the current administration. This is more a party preparing for the Presidential election in December (and led by their probable candidate for that election) rather than one closely aligned with Lee Myung-bak. This is easier to pull off in light of the fact that he cannot be re-elected.

    • Good points, JD. There was a report on Al Jazeera English TV news that emphasized that Park Geun-hye (Saenuri party presidential candidate) took a leading role in the campaign. That certainly supports the “counter-honeymoon” argument, and also the points JD is making. The report also said she is known as “the Queen of Elections”.

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