Seoul sets date for snap election to replace Park

Acting South Korean President Hwang Kyo-ahn was involved in two important decisions Wednesday — finalizing May 9 as the date for the country’s snap election and confirming that he will not be running in the race.

Hwang had been seen as the best hope of challenging the domination of liberal frontrunner Moon Jae-in based on popularity surveys, as conservative politics has taken a beating over its association with scandal-hit former President Park Geun-hye.

“To stabilize state affairs and fairly administer the presidential election, I’ve reached the judgment that it is inappropriate for me to run in the election,” Hwang was quoted as saying at a Cabinet meeting by Yonhap News Agency.

Hwang was picked as Park’s prime minister before taking over as interim president following her parliamentary impeachment in December.

May 9 had already been touted as the most likely election date because of a 60-day legal countdown set in motion by last Friday’s Constitutional Court decision to uphold Park’s impeachment.

With the date confirmed, it has been marked as a public holiday in a nation that was expected to go to the polls in December.

The floor leaders of three out of four major South Korean parties also agreed Wednesday to push for a referendum on constitutional reform on the same day as the election.

But as the main opposition Democratic Party is against the move, it is uncertain whether the required two-thirds of parliament would back the motion.

One of the key questions being debated is whether to swap the country’s single five-year presidential term limit for two four-year terms.

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