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Local elections create tough test for Park Geun-hye

Publication Date : 04-06-2014

 

The June 4 local elections have created a tough test for President Park Geun-hye as the polling day is being seen as an early interim assessment of her leadership and a referendum on her government’s handling of the ferry disaster that left more than 300 dead or missing in April.

The local elections on Wednesday are currently being held to pick new mayors, provincial governors and superintendents of education. Traditionally, the elections have not led to an upheaval of the central government and the presidency.

But as the current elections come at a critical juncture when the Park government is still reeling from the ferry debacle, the results are expected to significantly impact her leadership and determine the course of her future policies.

President Park has been struggling to bolster her position in the aftermath of the Sewol ferry disaster as she failed to placate the angry public over the government’s poor initial response and lack of preventative measures. Park has found herself at the centre of criticism since the disaster as she has been viewed as insensitive to the grieving victims’ families.

Her official apology came more than a month after the tragic accident, while a series of reform measures were announced weeks before her tearful address. The president’s failure to embrace the grieving nation became the catalyst for the rapid loss of public confidence in her and her party.

Both Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling Saenuri Party had been confident about the local elections as Park was enjoying a high approval rating. Polls revealed that Park’s approval rating surpassed 60 percent but declined rapidly to the mid-40 percent level right after the Sewol disaster.

Soon after the elections, Park is expected to nominate a prime minister, who will be tasked with carrying out her reform measures and conducting a major Cabinet reshuffle.

 

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