The citizens of South Korea celebrate this Wednesday the presidential elections, where the main candidates, the liberal of the ruling party, Lee Jae-myung, and the conservative ex-prosecutor Yoon Suk Yeol, maintain the preference in a tough contest that has intensified internal divisions.
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According to pre-election polls, the liberal and former governor of Gyeonggi province, the most populous in the country, Lee, was tied on 40 percent of voting intentions with former attorney general Yoon, and both well above the rest of the candidates.
The winner will take power in May and will serve a single five-year term against the world’s tenth largest economy. Lee and Yoon’s campaigns have been among the most acrimonious in South Korean history.
The candidates agreed a few days ago that, if they won, they would not undertake investigations for political reasons against the other. However, many believe that the losing candidate could continue to face criminal investigations for scandals in which he has been implicated.
Voters are skeptical about how both candidates will handle international relations as part of the rivalry between the United States and China, and how they will deal with growing economic inequality and soaring home prices.
South Korea is currently facing an increase in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant. This Wednesday the authorities registered 342,446 new infections, a record number.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) reported that 14,464 polling stations opened their doors from 06:00 local time (21:00 GMT), and voters waited in long lines at some polling stations with masks, gloves, or disinfectants for the polls. hands before performing the act of suffrage.
Citizens who have the disease must vote after normal voting ends this Wednesday night. Voting centers will extend their closing hours from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (09:00 a.m. to 09:30 GMT).
More than 44,000,000 South Koreans are called to vote, out of a total of 52,000,000. Last week some 16,000,000 (about 36.93 percent) cast their votes in advance.