Less than a hundred days are left to the June 13th nationwide provincial elections.
Around 35-hundred officials will be elected including mayors, governors, local government heads, education chiefs and members of local assemblies in the first local elections in four years.
The National Election Commission began accepting preliminary candidate registrations from mid-February.
The National Assembly belatedly passed a revision to the Public Official Election Act early this month which finalized a redrawn electoral map.
The legal deadline for the passage was December 13th, six months prior to the elections. But failure to reach a bipartisan agreement resulted in the delay.
Registered preliminary candidates are entitled to a limited scope of campaign activities such as passing out name cards and setting up a campaign office.
The formal registration period is in late May while official campaigning begins on May 31st.
The June elections are the first nationwide elections since President Moon Jae-in took office. The outcome can be viewed as the first interim report card of the administration.
If the ruling Democratic Party(DP) wins, it will have a stronger grip over state affairs while an opposition victory can serve to check against the government’s policy initiatives.
The elections will be held under a four-party system following repeated divisions and realignments on the political landscape.
The merger of the centrist People's Party and Bareun Party created not one but two new parties, the Bareun Mirae Party and the Party for Democracy and Peace. For these two parties, the upcoming elections will be key to determining their future survival.
The June elections are expected to be closely contested with results difficult to predict.
The ruling DP maintains high public support and may appear to have the advantage. But local elections often turn out to completely defy party ratings.
The DP expects a sweeping victory on the strength of high approval ratings for President Moon Jae-in.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party is meanwhile stepping up its offensive against the ruling camp, particularly stressing its position on North Korea.
The reformist conservatives, the Bareun Mirae Party, seek to absorb swing voters who are disillusioned by extreme political divides over ideology and regional rivalry. The Party for Democracy and Peace aims for a head-to-head battle with the ruling DP in the Jeolla provinces.