Voters flocked to polling stations Wednesday in tightly contested general elections that could strip President Lee Myung-bak’s ruling party of its control of parliament and set a crucial tone for December’s vote to pick his successor. The quadrennial poll is to elect a new 300-member National Assembly, but it takes on extra significance as the results are likely to affect the presidential election just eight months away. It is the first time in 20 years the two big elections take place in the same year. The National Assembly will be comprised of 246 directly contested seats and 56 proportional representation seats to be allocated to parties according to the total numbers of votes they receive. Each voter is asked to cast two ballots, one for a candidate and the other for a party.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. and will close 12 hours later. Past 2 p.m., nearly 15 million people, or 37.3 percent of the electorate, had cast their ballots, according to the Web site of the country’s election watchdog, the National Election Commission. The turnout was over four percentage points higher than 33.1 percent recorded by the same time in the previous general elections in 2008.