After decades of army rule, South Korea transitioned into an electoral democracy following its first direct presidential elections in 1987. The countryâ€™s president is elected every five years and only serves a single term in office. Elections are generally free and fair, with a multitude of parties competing for the 300 seats in the National Assembly, South Koreaâ€™s single legislative chamber. MPs are elected for four-year terms. In the latest parliamentary elections in April 2012 the Saenuri Party won 152 seats, while the Democratic United Party (DUP), the second largest political party, secured 127 seats. The Saenuri Partyâ€™s candidate Park Geun-hye won the December 2012 presidential elections, making her the countryâ€™s first female president.
Generally the electoral process has constantly improved since 2002, including a decline in the influence of money-politics, caused by high costs for contending in the elections. However, bribery, and influence peddling are still deep rooted in daily political life. In recent years cases in which candidates tried to rig internal party primaries or bribed contestants to withdraw from the race have again highlighted how common corruption is in South Koreaâ€™s politics. South Korea has a large number of NGOs, social welfare organisations and human rights groups which are able to operate freely and openly. In addition, the countryâ€™s strong trade unions advocate for workerâ€™s issues, however in the verge of recent economic downturn their strength has slightly diminished in the last years.