Published April 16th 2005 in The Hankyoreh
The Political Reform Council, an advisory body under the speaker of the National Assembly, has decided on a proposal for reforming the Election Law that would keep the Assembly's membership at 299 but increase proportional representatives to 99. That would better reflect the diverse spectrum of public opinion in the political process and is welcome because it would contribute to political development by encouraging the growth of policy-based political parties. Proportional representation through votes for parties was allowed in last year's election and that made it possible for even a progressive party to enter the Assembly. There are still only 56 proportional representatives, and the other 243 parliamentarians are elected from specific districts. Even if you consider the representation of local electoral districts that is way too high a number. Politics has yet to overcome regionalism, so while having too many district representatives is very favorable to regionalist parties, it is also a structural ill that blocks political development in the form of policy-based parties. Ultimately we need to have a 1 to 1 ratio of electoral district and proportional representatives.
That was among the proposals ahead of last year's Assembly election but the established parties opposed the idea. But in the end they decided to increase the body's membership by a total of 26 with 16 district representatives and 10 proportional representatives. It was a change for the worse because it actually meant an increase in district representatives. Everyone knows that the political parties that base their existence in a particular region were intensely opposed to having more proportionals. This time around a well, the politicians are not going to give up their regional rights and privileges. Civil society needs to keep a thorough watch on the Assembly's discussion and make it accept the council's proposal.
Other parts of its proposal include noteworthy ideas for increasing participation in politics such as lowering the voting age, allowing people to vote absentee by merely registering to do so, and permitting overseas absentee voting. It looks like the council too easily arrived at a negative conclusion about the question of having two legislators from each electoral district and excluding the internal candidate selection process for the heads of local government bodies, especially when you consider the importance of the matter. Meanwhile it decided to postpone taking a position on area distribution of proportional representation, something that would be closely related to resolving the problem of regionalism. The council is composed of neutral individuals from various segments of society. It should not leave the issues of contention to the politicians to fight over and should be bolder with its proposals as if someone issuing judgment.