South Korea held legislative elections today.
South Korea is one of the few remaining presidential systems (as opposed to semi-presidential systems) to hold only non-concurrent presidential and legislative elections. The current president, Lee Myung-bak, was elected in 2007 (with 48.7% of the vote).
Today’s election is the second National Assembly election since the president took office. In 2008, his party, the Grand National Party, won 37.4% of the party-list votes and 153 of the 299 seats, which represented an increase of 32 seats for the party on the previous total. So far, so good for the expectation that presidents’ parties gain in non-concurrent elections held early in their terms (“honeymoon elections”, as I have called them in my work on the political consequences of electoral cycles).
With this being the second election of the president’s term, his party has lost seats, right? Not so fast. Preliminary indications are that “South Korea’s ruling conservatives have scored an upset victory” (VOA).
The president’s supporters have rebranded their party as New Frontier. Party alignments and labels are not very stable in South Korea. In any case, I suppose voters know who the president’s allies are, and, going against expectations of both Korea experts and those of us who watch trends in non-concurrent elections, those allies have done well in a late-term election.
Presidents in South Korea are limited to a single term. The next president will be elected in December this year.
The legislature is elected via a Mixed-Member Majoritarian (MMM or “parallel”) system.