National election commission apologizes over poor management of early voting

SEOUL, South Korea's national election commission on Sunday apologized for an alleged poor management of the early voting for the March 9 presidential election, but it dismissed any suggestion of electoral foul play.

"We are sorry and regretful for having caused inconvenience during the early voting for COVID-19 patients yesterday," the commission said in a statement, vowing to swiftly address the issue for the upcoming election day.

The two-day early voting ended Saturday with a record turnout of 36.93 percent, reflecting high voter interest in what is expected to be one of the closest presidential races in history.

Polling stations accommodated COVID-19 patients and those in quarantine for one hour starting at 5 p.m., during which some voters complained over long waiting times and possible electoral fraud as their ballots were collected in boxes or shopping bags instead of regular ballot boxes.

"The voting process at the temporary polling stations was in accordance with law and regulations, and there was no chance of foul play in the procedures," the commission said, adding the same method was used for the 2020 general elections and the 2021 by-elections.

Wednesday's election has shaped up to be a two-way race between former Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party and former prosecutor-general Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party.

In the polls, the two have long competed within the margin of error at around 40 percent support each.

More than 44 million people are eligible to vote in this year's election. Voting for overseas South Koreans took place over six days until Feb. 28, while sailors aboard ships cast their ballots from March 1-4.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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