Lawmakers: Presidentís Proposals Will Lead to Constitutional Amendment

Published September 2nd 2005 in donga.com
Regarding his proposal of a grand coalition government and his remark suggesting a shortening of his term of office that President Roh Moo-hyun made, a number of ruling and opposition party lawmakers belonging to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly expressed their position, saying, “The controversy appears to be leading to an amendment of the Constitution in the end.”

According to an emergency survey of the all of members (15 lawmakers) belonging to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly conducted by Dong-A Ilbo yesterday, eight out of 14 lawmakers who replied to the survey answered, “The president is mindful of amending the Constitution,” or “The current controversy is likely to finally lead to a constitutional amendment.”

Is a Sign to Stir Up Discussion over a Constitutional Amendment?-

Ruling Uri Party lawmakers Woo Yoon-keun and Jung Sung-ho, and main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) lawmakers Chang Yoon-seok and Joo Seong-young analyzed that the president’s proposals appear to be ultimately leading to amending the Constitution to allow a parliamentary cabinet system.

GNP lawmakers Choi Yeon-hee, Kim Seong-jo and Kim Jae-gyeong opposed discussions over a constitutional amendment, saying, “The president seems to seek amending the Constitution, but we should not discuss a constitutional amendment or be embroiled in discussions over an amendment of the Constitution.” Ruing Uri Party lawmaker Jung Sung-ho was also opposed to discussions on this, saying, “Now is time that we should focus on the public’s livelihood.”

On the other hand, ruling Uri Party lawmaker Woo Yoon-keun insisted, “Given that the opposition parties view the president’s idea of forming a grand coalition government as a political tactic, we need to boldly discuss the issue of an amendment of the Constitution, rather than merely sitting on our hands.” Ruling Uri Party lawmakers Woo and Choi Jae-cheon added that it is desirable to amend the Constitution to a parliamentary cabinet system.

In regards to this controversy, during his appearance on the Buddhism Broadcasting System the day before, Rep. Chang Young-dal, a member of the ruling Uri Party’s standing committee, officially proposed the need to discuss the issue of amending the Constitution, saying, “It is time to reform excessively competitive systems. This could naturally lead to amending the Constitution, and the ruling and opposition parties need to launch discussions over an amendment of the Constitution.”

Cheong Wa Dae and the Uri Party leadership, however, seemed to step back from the discussions over an amendment of the Constitution, saying, “It is premature to discuss the matter of amending the Constitution, and the president’s proposals do not mean that it is necessary to amend the Constitution.”

Which is More Desirable: for the President to Retreat from His Positions or Shorten His Term of Office?-

In response to the question of what measures should be taken to realize the suggestion of a grand coalition and the remark of retreating from the front line that the president made, there were starkly different views from lawmakers, ranging from “it is necessary to amend the Constitution” to “it is possible to put into them practice without amending the Constitution.” Most GNP lawmakers answered, “They are considered unconstitutional.”

Asked about stepping down at the halfway point of the presidency, most lawmakers surveyed responded, “It has nothing to do with amending the Constitution because the president himself can decide over whether he should stay in office.” However, Rep. Choi Jae-cheon answered that it would be possible after an amendment of the Constitution.

Lots of Views over the Direction in the Electoral System-

Concerning the direction in the electoral system, most ruling Uri Party lawmakers responded that it is desirable to seek a multi-member, one-district system or a proportional representation system for each district. Only lawmaker Choi Jae-cheon answered, “It is not bad to maintain the current electoral system.”

Lawmaker Choi Yong-gue argued that a multi-member, one-district system for mixed-city and rural-style areas that puts city areas and their nearby rural areas into an electoral district. Rep. Yang Seoung-jo added, “It is hard to fully break deep-rooted regionalism even by reforming the current electoral system.”

Democratic Labor Party lawmaker Roh Hoe-chan proposed a German-style proportional representation system.

On the other hand, all of the GNP lawmakers excluding two lawmakers answered, “There is no reason to discuss the issue of electoral systems.” Given the GNP’s flat opposition, it appears to be difficult for the ruling and opposition parties to reach an agreement on the issue, even if a bill on reforming the current electoral system is submitted in the upcoming regular session at the National Assembly.