April elections campaign to kick off as parties race for crucial votes

SEOUL, Rival parties are set to begin their official campaigning this week for the April 10 parliamentary elections, as the race heats up for the crucial votes seen as a barometer of the voters' assessment on the government of President Yoon Suk Yeol at its mid-term. The election campaign will kick off at the beginning of Thursday for a 13-day run through the eve of the election. Up for grabs are 300 National Assembly seats -- 254 directly contested seats and 46 proportional representation slots. The race has largely been about a showdown between the ruling People Power Party (PPP) seeking to add more seats and the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) aiming to retain its parliament majority. On Wednesday, the two rival parties declared all-out efforts for the canvassing over the next two weeks. Announcing an election pledge to push for a relocation of the National Assembly from Yeouido in western Seoul to the central city of Sejong, PPP leader Han Dong-hoon emphasized the need to reform the old "Yeouid o politics" that has created deep public mistrust. The proposal came with the ruling party's pledges to ease development restrictions for the western parts of Seoul to help transform the area into a financial and cultural landmark. "April 10 will be the day that the Yeouido politics will end, the day that new politics will begin," Han said in a press conference at the party headquarters in Yeouido. The PPP has vowed to fight the DP-led liberal bloc that it accuses of taking advantage of the parliament majority to frustrate the legislative process needed for the Yoon government, and called for a new parliament that will focus on making the citizens' livelihoods better. The DP, on the other hand, is pitching for what it has labeled as the "judgment day" for the Yoon government that has ruined the people's livelihoods and failed in running the country. "People say, 'We can't put up with this anymore. Let's make a judgment,'" DP leader Lee Jae-myung said in an election campaign committee meeting in Chungju, about 100 kilometers south of Seoul. The DP has accused what it calls the "incompetent" Yoon administration of causing the economy and the livelihoods of people to worsen seriously and mishandling a string of issues, such as the controversial appointment of Ambassador to Australia Lee Jong-sup despite him being subject to an investigation. Observers project that the DP will also likely push ahead with bills to investigate corruption allegations involving first lady Kim Keon Hee if it gets to maintain the majority with the proportional seats won by its satellite party. Predictions from both parties show that the PPP is "highly likely" to win 82 seats, with the DP "highly likely" to win 110 seats, in a total of 254 constituencies. How the minor parties will fare will also be one of the key takeaways from the elections in terms of moving the swing voters. The Korea Innovation Party, led by disgraced former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, has drawn attention for what critics say amounts to Cho's personal vendetta against the Yoon government. Other minor parties include the New Reform Party formed by former PPP leader Lee Jun-seok and the New Future Party (Saemirae) led by former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon. Han of the PPP will kick off the campaign at the Garak Fish Market in Seoul's eastern district of Songpa. Lee, the DP leader, will start off the campaign at the square in front of Yongsan Station. Source: Yonhap News Agency