Covid-19

Elections

S.Korea scrambles to rework Covid-19 poll plans after early voting lapses

S.Korea scrambles to rework Covid-19 poll plans after early voting lapses
epa09802590 A citizen wearing a sanitary glove receives a ballot on the second day of early voting for the presidential election in Seoul, South Korea, 05 March 2022, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. EPA-EFE/YONHAP SOUTH KOREA OUT

SEOUL, March 7 (Reuters) - South Korean poll officials scrambled to revamp voting plans for Wednesday's election after early voting was marred by long waits outside polls stations for covonavirus sufferers, while other voters received ballots already marked.

A record turnout of nearly 37% in two-day absentee voting that ended on Saturday highlights a tight race in which Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party faces off against Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative main opposition People Power Party.

As daily COVID-19 infections hover near unprecedented levels above 200,000 and more than 1 million receive treatment at home, parliament passed a legislative amendment to ease in-person voting by such patients.

But chaos erupted at many polling places during Saturday’s special early voting for infected voters, prompting repeated apologies from the National Election Commission (NEC) for failing to ensure a stable and orderly process.

“All the problems resulted from our failure at thorough preparations, and we are fully responsible for falling short of people’s trust and expectations,” it said in a statement.

There was no sign of foul play, it added, but officials held an emergency meeting on Monday to tighten procedures ahead of Wednesday’s wider vote.

President Moon Jae-in had expressed regret on Sunday, asking the NEC to fully explain the errors and guarantee all people’s right to vote, his spokeswoman said.

The chaos at many polling places was a blow for South Korea, tarnishing a 35-year democratic history of tight and relatively transparent management of elections, and a mostly successful fight on COVID-19.

Instead of allowing voters to directly cast ballots, some election workers collected and carried them in a shopping bag or wooden bucket to put in designated ballot boxes, the NEC said.

Some voters received ballot-papers that had already been used, while others had to wait in long queues in the cold weather, with at least one reported to have fainted.

Opposition candidate Yoon’s campaign criticised the NEC, saying, “An elementary classroom election could not be sloppier,” and called for its chairwoman, Noh Jeong-hee, to step down.

Lee’s party, while dismissing the opposition’s demand for Noh’s resignation, also demanded steps to avert more confusion.

South Koreans eligible to vote for a successor to Moon number about 44 million. He is legally barred from re-election, at a time of growing voter frustration at skyrocketing home prices, polarised politics and graft scandals.

By Hyonhee Shin.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez).

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.