South Korean election during coronavirus pandemic may become model for world

Moon Jae-in talks with government employees during a virus prevention meeting in Daegu, South Korea, Feb. 25.

SEOUL (15 April 2020) – South Korea is holding the biggest election since the coronavirus pandemic spread around the globe — and it might spur other world leaders with good poll numbers to follow suit.

Surveys show President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party of Korea set to win elections for 300 parliament seats on Wednesday, after his government’s popularity increased following its handling of the virus in what was initially one of the world’s hardest-hit countries. New infection rates have fallen this month to their lowest levels since February.

The decision to hold the election contrasts with some US states that have delayed presidential primaries and France, which suspended some local elections after cases began to multiply. Poland plans to conduct its May 10 presidential election by mail-in ballot.

Still, for any leaders weighing whether to call an election — such as those in Singapore and Japan — a big win for Moon’s party could show the political benefits of moving ahead with a vote despite the risks. The virus provided an opportunity for Moon to rebuild support battered by an economic slowdown, corruption scandals involving presidential aides and resurgent tensions with North Korea.

South Korea’s election shows the world that holding a vote during the pandemic is both possible and may be beneficial for leaders who have handled the crisis well, according to Miha Hribernik, head of Asia risk analysis at consultancy Verisk Maplecroft

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