South Korea’s governing Saenuri party may have lost its majority in parliament after elections aimed at boosting its position, polls suggest.
Exit polls forecast Saenuri to retain a slight lead over its opponents but not enough to secure a majority in the 300-member National Assembly.
Until now, Saenuri previously had only a slim majority in the assembly.
It meant that President Park Geun-hye’s time in office had been hampered by legislative gridlock.
Saenuri had hoped to win the three-fifths of seats needed before bills can be introduced and passed by parliament.
South Korea’s public broadcaster KBS predicted that Saenuri would win between 121-143 seats while the main opposition Minju Party would secure between 101-123 seats.
Voters cast ballots at nearly 14,000 polling stations to elect 253 of the 300 lawmakers. The remaining 47 proportional representation seats are allocated to parties according to the numbers of votes they receive overall.
President Park was hoping a stronger mandate in the assembly would help her to push through labour and economic reforms before her term in office expires in about 20 months’ time.
Youth unemployment rose to 12.5% in February, much higher than the South Korean average rate of nearly 5%. At the same time all the main parties have promised measures to reduce poverty among the elderly.