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Cablegate: Final Polls Point to Gnp Majority

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #0682/01 0950822
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 040822Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9226
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 4056
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 8634
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 4210
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUALSFJ/COMUSJAPAN YOKOTA AB JA PRIORITY
RUACAAA/COMUSKOREA INTEL SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP// PRIORITY

UNCLAS SEOUL 000682

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KN KS PGOV PINR PREL
SUBJECT: FINAL POLLS POINT TO GNP MAJORITY


1. (U) SUMMARY: With general elections less than a week
away, the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) is poised to
secure a significant majority in the National Assembly. The
latest polling data ) the last to be released before April 9
according to election law stipulations ) revealed that of
the 245 district seats (299 including proportional seats) the
GNP is expected to win in 107-145 districts, with the main
opposition liberal United Democratic Party (UDP) expected to
take anywhere from 46-71. The UDP is not likely to achieve
its projected goal of winning 100 seats, the number necessary
to block constitutional revisions, and is therefore touting
its underdog opposition role in the hopes of appealing to the
estimated 30 percent of undecided voters. As for the
remaining parties, the independents are leading in 16
districts. Conservative hardliner Lee Hoi-chang,s Liberty
Forward Party (LFP) is ahead in 9 districts, and others in 5.
In accordance with these polling results, South Korean press
reports project that the GNP will win roughly 30 proportional
seats, securing over 170 in total. The UDP on the other hand
would likely come out with about 90 seats. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------
METRO AREA = PULSE OF THE PUBLIC
--------------------------------

2. (U) The Seoul metropolitan area holds 45 percent of the
total seats and as South Korea's political hub is considered
a make-or-break region for these elections. While the ruling
party initially was expected to have a sweeping victory here,
competition became fierce as Lee Myung-bak's approval ratings
fell to around 35 percent; the contests' results in this area
will therefore offer insight into the public's evaluation of
Lee's performance in the first month of his administration
and indicate to what extent the public is willing to support
his policies. In Seoul, the ruling GNP is leading in 23-34
of the 48 constituencies, the UDP in 4-12, and former
presidential candidate Moon Kook-hyun's Creative Korea Party
(CKP) is ahead in one. In Incheon, the GNP is leading in 6-7
of the 12 districts, and the UDP in 1-3. Of the 51 seats in
the Gyeonggi province, the ruling party is ahead in 20-21 and
the UDP in 9-10. All remaining districts are caught up in
tight races.

---------------------
LFP TAKES CHUNGCHEONG
---------------------

3. (U) The Chungcheong region is crucial for the LFP to gain
enough seats towards forming a floor negotiation group (20
seats). Of the total 24 seats available, GNP candidates are
ahead in 3-5 districts, the UDP in 3-4, the LFP in 7-9, and
the remaining races show no clear winner. In Gyeongsang, the
GNP's traditional stronghold, ruling party candidates are
ahead in 50-60 of the 68 constituencies. The Pro-Park
Alliance candidates and independents who previously lost GNP
nominations are not proving to be formidable opponents; only
one pro-Park candidate, Hong Sa-duk, seems to have a chance
at winning in the region according to the latest polls.

--------------------------------------------- -----
UDP UP IN HONAM, INDEPENDENTS FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT
--------------------------------------------- -----

4. (U) In the Honam region of North and South Jeolla,
traditionally a bastion of liberal support, the UDP is
leading in 25-27 of the 31 districts, but liberal independent
candidates are beginning to draw more attention. Consistent
with their usual voting pattern of choosing candidates based
on regional loyalty, voters in Honam are beginning to grow
more attuned to the candidates' promises of change )
especially on the economy - and the UDP is working overtime
to win what used to be shoo-in votes. Unaffiliated
candidates who were rejected in the UDP nomination process
hold a lead in 2-4 cities and counties in Jeolla to include
Mokpo, Muan, and Shinan. Of these, Mokpo is being
spotlighted as former President Kim Dae-jung's close aide
Park Jie-won, with 35 percent support, is leading his UDP
opponent Chung Young-sik, who has 23 percent support.

----------------
KANGWON AND JEJU
----------------
5. (U) The competition in Kangwon and Jeju is evenly split -
while the GNP candidates are strong overall, the UDP is
leading in two constituencies, and competition is fierce in
another two districts. In Jeju, UDP candidates hold a slight
lead over their GNP counterparts in two of three districts.

-------------------
KEY RACES AND FACES
-------------------

6. (U) UDP chairman Sohn Hak-kyu and former presidential
candidate Chung Dong-young face likely losses in their
highly-publicized contests with key GNP figures Park Jin and
Chung Mong-joon. Close Lee Myung-bak supporter Park Jin is
well ahead of Sohn in the highly-coveted Jongno district of
Seoul at 44 percent while Sohn rates at about 30 percent.
Chung Mong-joon is ahead of his UDP rival Chung Dong-young by
more than 20 percentage points, although recent allegations
of sexual harassment may sway some undecided voters and
result in a tighter race than expected. Key Lee supporters
such as Lee Jae-o (33 percent) and GNP Secretary General Lee
Bang-ho (44.8 percent) are struggling in their respective
contests against the liberal Creative Korea Party's Moon
Kook-hyun (49 percent) and the liberal Democratic Labor
Party,s Kang Ki-gap (31.9 percent).

-------
COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) South Korean press reports note that this year's
general elections will likely see a record-low voter turnout,
probably due to an apathetic younger generation and both
major parties' "no-policy" policy. Even the recent wave of
harsh rhetoric from the North is unlikely to influence
voters, as candidates continue to forego policy debates in
favor of appeals to regional and party affiliation. All
things being equal, a low voter turnout will likely bolster
the GNP,s chances for a strong majority, as precedent shows
that older, traditionally GNP-leaning voters will show up to
the polls while younger voters stay at home.
VERSHBOW

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