Liberal politician Moon Jae-in claimed victory in South Korea’s presidential election on Tuesday, after exit polls projected a landslide victory that will end nearly a decade of conservative rule.
“I will be president for all South Koreans,” Moon told cheering supporters on Gwanghwamun Square in the capital Seoul.
“This is a great victory of great people who stayed with me to create a country of justice … where rules and common sense prevail,” he said.
A joint survey by three network television stations showed Moon, 64, beating conservative challenger, former prosecutor Hong Joon-pyo, by 41.4 percent to 23.3 percent of the votes.
Hong and centrist challenger Ahn Cheol-soo, conceded defeat shortly after projections were reported, which paved the way for Moon to claim victory, The Associated Press reported.
Hong said he will “accept the result of the election”.
Al Jazeera’s Craig Leeson, reporting from Seoul, said the expected victory signals a “protest vote” by many South Koreans.
South Koreans seek reform in presidential election
“Certainly the majority of voters have signaled a protest vote, signaling they want an end to the collusion between political parties and big business,” Leeson said.
“They want reform of the economy, they want jobs and that is something that Moon promised very vigorously in his campaigning leading up to this election.”
The result is expected to end months of political turmoil stemming from a parliamentary vote in December to impeach former President Park Geun-hye over an extensive corruption scandal.
The Constitutional Court upheld her impeachment in March, making her the first democratically elected leader to be removed from office in South Korea and triggering a snap election to choose her successor.
“People have wanted a cleaner, fairer and more equal government but the previous government has not been successful on that matter,” Don S. Shin, a professor of economics at the Sookmyung Women’s University told Al Jazeera from Seoul.
“As a result, people came out to the streets last October in the so-called ‘candlelight revolution’, so this special election is a kind of culmination of the people’s choice of a new government,” he added.
But Shin predicted that Moon is going to have a “hard time” to deliver on some of his election promises as he does not enjoy a majority in parliament.
“I foresee enormous trouble for the president to handle the matters in the Congress.”
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies