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DP to push ahead with voting

Coalition of parties to work without LKP on bills that still remain
Dec 09,2019
With a day left until the end of the National Assembly’s regular session, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and its junior allies are set to call votes today to decide the fate of several bills, including the contentious fast-tracked proposals on judicial and electoral reforms.

On Saturday, Speaker Moon Hee-sang announced he would open plenary sessions at the National Assembly on Monday and Tuesday to formally post the two sets of reform bills and next year’s budget proposal, as well as a slew of other pressing legislation that have been put on hold with the main opposition Liberty Korea Party’s (LKP) announcement it would filibuster all legislative proceedings.

Saying the DP can no longer tolerate delays as a result of the LKP’s obstruction, DP spokesman Rep. Hong Ihk-pyo said Saturday that his party would form a “four-plus-one” coalition with four other minor parties in the legislature to reach compromises over the bills while leaving the LKP out of all negotiations.

“The LKP itself has chosen to become a pariah in legislative politics and has lost the opportunity to exhibit and reflect its positions in the budget and bills,” Hong said.

The assembled coalition began negotiations on Sunday to reach compromises with respect to the bills, focusing largely on producing mutually agreeable versions of the fast-tracked proposals, which remain subject to much disagreement even within the alliance.

The electoral reform bill, which seeks to adjust the number of single-member constituencies to proportional representative seats in the legislature and modify the method by which party list votes factor into seat distribution, has the strong backing of some minor parties but has been challenged by lawmakers of rural districts that are likely to be cut under the new system.

The judicial reform bills, which include a proposal to create a new investigative agency focusing on corruption among senior public servants, aims to weaken the power of the state prosecution service as part of the Moon Jae-in administration’s signature drive to overhaul the country’s law enforcement system.

The LKP vehemently opposes both sets of reforms, which have been packaged together as a compromise to the minor parties, and has refused to partake in any negotiations on its account.

With the party threatening to filibuster the proposals by staging relay speeches until the end of the regular session on Tuesday evening, the five-party alliance may not be able to vote on the bills over the next two days, even with the legislative majority it theoretically holds.

To maximize chances of passing some legislation today, the DP may first call for votes on bills on hold unrelated to the fast-tracked proposals, like a heavily supported bill to strengthen traffic safety in school zones, before moving on to the more contentious bills.

While the DP has been holding out on a last-minute compromise with the LKP following the latter’s election of a new floor leader today, it has also hedged its bets by filing for the opening of temporary sessions of the National Assembly after Tuesday, which would be unaffected by the LKP filibuster of the regular session.

Though it is expected the LKP may attempt to obstruct those sessions as well, the alliance has hinted they may resort to vote on each of the contentious bills piecemeal starting from Wednesday. Doing so would be an unprecedented process but only the latest in a string of anomalies that have gripped Korea’s legislature over the year.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]