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Seoul Mayor to soon announce his exit after failed referendum

(Xinhua)

09:44, August 26, 2011

SEOUL, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who lost a crucial referendum over the city's free school lunch program a day ago, is expected to soon announce when he will step down, reports here said Thursday.

Oh had called the referendum to put a stop to the implementation of the decision by the opposition-led city council to provide free meals at all elementary schools starting later this year and expand the program to include middle school students from 2014.

Oh, dismissing the plan as a pork-barrel policy with the ruling party on his back, offered an alternative plan aimed at providing free meals to students from families in the lower half of the income distribution starting in 2014, and pledged to step down if the turnout is lower than 33.3 percent of the city's 8.4 million eligible voters.

Tallied at 25.7 percent, however, the referendum failed to meet the quorum required for the result to stand, forcing the beleaguered mayor announce his resignation sooner or later.

If the mayor exits from his office next month as some speculate, a by-election is expected in October. If he waits past September, the election will be held alongside the general parliamentary elections slated for next April.

Wednesday's referendum was seen as an important gauge of public opinions on the country's welfare policy ahead of the parliamentary and presidential polls in 2012.

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