Electoral Reform Panel Back in Action

By Yoo Dong-Ho
Published January 11th 2004 in Korea Times

Major political parties are set to iron out differences over a long-delayed electoral system bill aimed at introducing reforms ahead of the April general elections.

The Special Committee for Political Reform will reconvene Thursday to tackle key pending issues, but officials fear it will be hampered because representatives from each party are expected to only focus on articulating partisan interests.

The special committees' first round of talks on political reform proposals were disrupted last December by contention over the number of lawmakers in the Assembly.

The majority Grand National Party (GNP) and other opposition parties have agreed to increase the number of lawmakers to 289 from the current 273, but they want to keep the number of those elected under the proportional representation system at 46.

They also intend to increase the number of residents that currently define an electoral district. According to current district regulations a constituency is comprised of between 90,000 and 340,000 people. Opposition parties want to increase the number to a range between 100,000 and 300,000 constituents.

The Uri Party wants to keep the total number of lawmakers at 273, including 46 seats elected under proportional representation. Uri Party lawmakers argue opposition parties are seeking to increase their number of regional representatives due mainly to their partisan interests.

The rival parties are also at odds over the voting age, in which the GNP and the United Liberal Democrats want to maintain the status quo, while the Uri and the Millennium Democratic Party have been pushing to lower the age from 20 to 19, which would enfranchise 800,000 potential voters and boost young people's participation in the political process.

The envisioned special committee session comes as GNP lawmaker Lee Jae-oh was chosen as its new chairman after former chairman Mok Yo-sang stepped down last December, taking responsibility for the ongoing dispute over the electoral system.

For the past couple of weeks, the Assembly's special committee has been crippled, as the Uri Party and its three opposition forces refused to give ground over the issue.