It appears that the passage of the Public Official Election Act proposed by the so-called “4+1” consultative body is impending. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea has decided to put the electoral reform bill to a vote Friday in a National Assembly plenary session which was supposed to take place Thursday. It is allowed to put it to a vote at a new interim parliamentary session after filibuster ends.
In his statement, Liberty Korea Party (LKP) Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn said, “Our party will not hesitate to explore and measure every legitimate measure to stop the reform,” implying the possibility of creating a “proportional LKP,” a satellite party. The ruling party, which said it had not considered creating a satellite party, has not ruled out the possibility. Some lawmakers in minor opposition parties argue that changes should be made to the electoral reform bill in a way that prevents the creation of satellite parties. However, amending the bill that has already been patched up and deformed by the consultative body will only make things worse.
The passage of the reform bill at the plenary session is expected to trigger a fierce competition between the ruling and opposition parties over constituencies. Out of 253 seats, Sejong, Chuncheon and Suncheon will become constituencies in their own right due to their large population, meaning three existing constituencies should be either merged or removed. The “4+1” consultative body has decided to merge or remove three constituencies in the Seoul metropolitan area while keeping intact those in the Jeolla region, a stronghold of the body. If constituencies are gerrymandered by the “4+1” consultative body behind the curtains without the main opposition party, in addition to the electoral reform bill it spearheaded, elections will be anything but fair.
It now remains unclear whether the budget and public bills will be passed by the end of this year due to the filibuster that followed the decision of National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang to advance the order of the reform bill on Monday. Once the Public Official Election Act is enacted, there will be another round of filibuster on the High-ranking Officials’ Corruption Investigation Agency Act. If the budget bill is postponed to next year, it cannot help but affect the execution of the government’s budget. Among pending public bills is a military service reform bill that will replace the existing act, which is due to expire this year. If it remains pending, it will disrupt the work of the military manpower administration as alternative services will be implemented. Political disputes should not come at the expense of inconveniences to the general public. The main and ruling parties should at least agree to prioritize the budget and public bills.