People Power Candidate Wins Hotly Contested South Korea Presidential Elections

People Power Candidate Wins Hotly Contested South Korea Presidential Elections

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By Spy Uganda Correspondent

Seoul, South Korea-A conservative former prosecutor declared victorious in South Korea’s presidential election on Thursday after his liberal ruling party rival conceded defeat in a bitter battle in the politically divided nation.

With around 98 percent of the ballots counted as of 4 a.m. (2 p.m. Wednesday Eastern), People Power Party candidate Yoon Suk Yeol won 48.59 percent of the votes, narrowly edging liberal rival Lee Jae-myung, who garnered 47.80 percent.

Yoon thanked his supporters outside his home in the capital, Seoul, after what he described as a “long night.”

He spoke shortly after Lee conceded defeat during a news conference at the campaign office of his Democratic Party, where he congratulated Yoon and called for him to heal the country’s divisions.

Yoon will take office in May and serve a single five-year term as leader of the world’s 10th-largest economy, which is now grappling with stark income inequalities and soaring personal debt and facing growing threats from nuclear-armed North Korea.

The tentative turnout was 77.1 percent after polls closed Wednesday, the fifth highest since the country restored direct presidential elections in 1987 following decades of military dictatorship, according to the National Election Commission.

Yoon and Lee recently agreed that if they won they would not start politically motivated investigations against the other, but many believed the losing candidate could still face criminal inquiries over scandals they’ve been linked to.

The election comes as South Korea has been grappling with a surge in Covid-19 cases driven by the more transmissible omicron variant of the virus. On Wednesday, health authorities reported a record 342,446 new cases. People infected with the coronavirus voted after regular voting ended Wednesday evening.

South Korea’s Constitution limits a president to a single five-year term, so Lee’s party colleague, President Moon Jae-in, could not seek re-election. Moon came to power in 2017 after conservative President Park Geun-hye was impeached and ousted from office over a huge corruption scandal.

Yoon had been Moon’s prosecutor general but resigned and joined the opposition last year following infighting over investigations of Moon’s allies. Yoon said those inquiries were objective and principled, but Moon’s supporters said he was trying to thwart Moon’s prosecution reforms and elevate his own political standing.

Yoon’s critics have also attacked him over a lack of experience in party politics, foreign policy and other key state affairs. Yoon has responded that he would let experienced officials handle state affairs that require expertise.

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