Go to contents

[Editorial] Lawmakers` Neglect in Voting on Bills

Posted January. 20, 2010 08:36,   


A total of 720 bills were passed between May 2008, when the 18th National Assembly began, and November last year. Among legislators who declined voting on more than 500 bills, or 70 percent of the passed bills, 11 were from the main opposition Democratic Party and two from the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party. Those who snubbed voting on more than half of the bills accounted for 20 percent of the legislature, or 60 representatives. This clearly shows the underdevelopment of Korean politics and the lack of commitment by certain legislators.

Voting on bills is a basic requirement of lawmakers, who represent the people who voted for them into office. Representative democracy, a system under which elected legislators discuss and decide on major state affairs, is used because not everyone can directly participate in all decision-making processes. For this reason, legislators submit bills on behalf of the people and discuss and put them to vote. Some say the decision not to vote on a bill could represent a lawmaker’s opinion but frequent snubs constitute dereliction of duty and an act threatening representative democracy itself.

Whether a legislator votes for or against a bill serves as a criterion for voters to judge him or her. If a lawmaker’s vote often contradicts his or her political arguments, voters should keep this in mind and decide whether to keep supporting him or her. For this reason, the details of votes are released to the public in more developed democracies. Bills submitted to the Korean National Assembly are often passed with a majority vote and most legislators attending barring special rules as defined in the Constitution or laws. If a large percentage of legislators do not vote, however, the authority of bills passed could be undermined.

Certain legislators with low voting rates have good excuses: they are either in prison or hospitalized. Others do not vote in groups because of their respective parties’ policies. Since dozens of bills are put to a vote all at once, one absent lawmaker could lead to the absence of dozens of votes.

What is clear, however, is that 60 legislators snub voting on more than half of the bills that passed the National Assembly. The U.S. Senate passed 397 bills last year, with only four of 93 senators not voting on more than 10 percent of the bills.