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Election outcome to weaken Yoon’s grip on state affairs

President Yoon Suk Yeol attends a discussion session  on public livelihood issues at Ivex Studio in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi Province, March 5. Courtesy of presidential office

The exit poll results of Wednesday’s general elections, indicating a landslide victory for the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), are anticipated to deal a critical blow to President Yoon Suk Yeol’s control over state affairs. This outcome dashes his hopes of securing parliamentary support to pursue key policies during the remainder of his presidency.Exit polls conducted by the nation’s three major terrestrial broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS projected the DPK to secure 178 to 197 seats when combining constituency wins with proportional representation seats obtained by its satellite party.The ruling People Power Party (PPP) is expected to retain between 85 and 105 seats, including those obtained through proportional representation by its satellite party. Among minor parties, the liberal Rebuilding Korea Party (RKP) excelled, and is anticipated to claim between 12 to 14 seats.If the election outcome falls within the anticipated ranges, the opposition bloc can secure more than 200 seats in the 300-seat Assembly. In such a scenario, the opposition would have the ability to unilaterally enact contentious bills, effectively neutralizing Yoon’s presidential veto power. Furthermore, it could even pass a bill on impeaching the president.Yoon has already been facing stumbling blocks in exercising his power for the past two years, because the DPK, which has held a majority throughout his presidency, has been opposing many of the president’s policies and Cabinet confirmation hearings requiring parliamentary approvals.Due to this political landscape, Yoon has been relying on presidential decrees to fulfill several of his policy promises without revising laws. Additionally, he has been unilaterally vetoing contentious bills passed by the DPK. However, several of Yoon’s major initiatives, including the abolition of the investment income tax and the relaxation of the inheritance tax, have remained pending due to the necessity of law revisions.

With the opposition likely to regain the majority once again, the policy gridlock is expected to persist until Yoon leaves office.“During the past two years, Yoon has faced constraints due to legislative limitations, forcing him to rely on presidential decrees to pursue policies,” political commentator Rhee Jong-hoon said.“And for the next three years, the president may face difficulties in using decrees, because ranking government officials will start distancing themselves from his administration.”Wednesday’s election result is widely interpreted as a midterm assessment of Yoon’s presidency. Another potential majority for the DPK is seen as a manifestation of public distrust toward his administration. With Yoon’s job approval ratings largely remaining below 50 percent over the past two years, the prospects for him to reverse his declining influence on state affairs midway through his five-year term appear slim.“Yoon has struggled to maintain strong control over state affairs, and the defeat of the ruling party will further marginalize the president in every aspect, including the PPP’s prospects for future political power,” said Cho Jin-man, a politics professor at Duksung Women’s University.“And the defeat will force the ruling party to reassess its relationship with the president, bicker over who is responsible for the defeat and shift the focus to the party’s next leadership. All of these factors are poised to create difficult circumstances for Yoon.”While the standoff between Yoon and the DPK is predictable, the president’s veto power is on the line depending on the election result.

Once the president vetoes a bill, it returns to the Assembly for a second vote, and to be passed again, it requires the attendance of more than half of all lawmakers and approval by two-thirds of attending legislators. If the liberal side secures more than 200 seats, Yoon’s veto will become meaningless.Yoon has already vetoed nine contentious bills passed unilaterally by the DPK. One of them was about launching a special counsel probe into stock manipulation allegations involving Yoon’s wife, Kim Keon Hee.That bill was scrapped in February because Yoon vetoed it in January and the Assembly failed to gain approval by two-thirds of attending lawmakers at the second vote.The opposition is set to introduce a similar special counsel bill targeting the first lady during the 22nd Assembly if the DPK and other liberal opposition parties together secure more than 200 seats.Ha Shang-eung, a politics professor at Sogang University, said such a tug-of-war between the Yoon administration and the DPK will continue throughout the president’s remaining term.“It might be premature to label the president as a lame duck at this stage, as three years constitute a significant and unpredictable period. The designation of a lame duck typically arises when the ruling party starts preparing for the next presidential election,” Ha said.“However, what is evident is that the political stalemate witnessed over the past two years is likely to persist for the next three years, characterized by the 스포츠토토존 DPK unilaterally passing bills and Yoon subsequently vetoing them.”

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