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Cablegate: Gnp Defeat in by-Elections Reflects Public Angst

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #1144 1570833
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 050833Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0325
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 4380
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 8772
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 4518
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUALSFJ/COMUSJAPAN YOKOTA AB JA
RUACAAA/COMUSKOREA INTEL SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP//

UNCLAS SEOUL 001144

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KS KN
SUBJECT: GNP DEFEAT IN BY-ELECTIONS REFLECTS PUBLIC ANGST

1. (SBU) Summary: The ruling Grand National Party's (GNP)
poor showing in the June 4 by-election -- on the same day as
President Lee Myung-bak's 100th day in office - is largely a
reflection of public dissatisfaction with the new
administration. The GNP party won only nine of the 52 local
seats up for grabs, and local press are contrasting the GNP's
failure to win a single seat in Seoul with their landslide
victories in the capital region in the April 9 general
election. End Summary.

-----------------------------
What Was At Stake and Who Won
-----------------------------

2. (SBU) The final voting results, which came out on June 5,
reflected ongoing political backlash over U.S. beef imports.
Out of the total 52 seats (9 county/district chief posts, 29
provincial and municipal council seats, 14 township council
seats) up for grabs in the June 4 by-election, the GNP won
only nine; the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP)
secured 23. This is a big set back for the ruling party,
which had won every local election since the 2004
parliamentary elections.

-----------------
Low Voter Turnout
-----------------

3. (SBU) Voter turnout for the by-elections was 23.2
percent, the second lowest in local election history, despite
the National Election Commission (NEC) extending voting hours
until 8 pm from the usual 6 pm. According to an NEC
official, the low turnout had been expected to a certain
extent because the by-elections came shortly after the
presidential and parliamentary elections. Bad weather also
contributed to the low turnout.

------------------------------------------
Post-Local Election Politics Focus on Beef
------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) UDP leader Sohn Hak-kyu called the results a
"warning" to the Lee Myung-bak administration and emphasized
his party's consolidated drive to push for renegotiations of
the U.S.-ROK beef deal. The GNP, in a statement issued by
spokesperson Cho Yoon-sun, also acknowledged that, "there was
insufficient communication between the GNP and citizens," and
that "we humbly accept the public sentiment reflected in the
by-elections." Widespread perceptions among all parties that
the elections reflected public dissatisfaction with President
Lee Myung-bak's handling of state affairs -- especially the
U.S. beef deal -- makes it likely that the GNP will increase
its pressure on the Blue House to expand the scope of the
Cabinet reshuffle plan expected in the near future.

-------
Comment
-------

5. (SBU) The Lee Myung-bak Administration is in trouble, and
it is unclear if anyone on his team can fashion a political
bailout before it is too late. After the results were
announced, Lee reportedly told his staff to prepare
countermeasures. Nobody believes there is a magic bullet
because a series of apologies, proposals and policy ideas
have all fallen flat.
VERSHBOW

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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