Reform panel to finalize plans
By Joo Sang-min
The National Assembly's special committee on
political reform will hold a meeting today to finalize controversial
issues such as changing the number of lawmakers and reorganizing
constituencies before the general elections in April next year.
The rival parties agreed to vote on the proposal, if they fail to
iron out their differences by today's deadline.
The most contentious issue hinges on how many lawmakers should be
elected through direct voting as opposed to the proportional
representation system and how to divide the country into differently
sized constituencies depending on the dispersal of the population.
The three opposition parties - the Grand National Party, the
Millennium Democratic Party and the United Liberal Democrats -
wanted to keep the current "single" electoral system, in which one
lawmaker is elected from each district.
They also hope to allocate 100,000 people as the smallest
constituency and 300,000 for the largest, so as to readjust the 243
seats that will be elected through direct voting.
But the pro-government Uri Party prefers to replace the current
system with a "multiple-seat system," electing five or more
lawmakers per constituency, in what they said was an effort to
curtail regional favoritism.
The MDP's splinter party, which is loyal to President Roh
Moo-hyun, also said that it would be willing to introduce a more
complex system, in which urban areas choose the multiple-seat system
and rural areas stick to the current single constituencies.
Political watchers said the three opposition parties would
finalize the plan according to their own agendas, as they would
effectively control the panel in the event of a vote.
As for the total number of lawmakers, the GNP wants to retain the
current number of lawmakers at 273, including 30 seats under the
proportional representation system, but the Uri Party and the MDP
want to see 299 lawmakers and increase the seats to more than 55.
Currently, of the 273 lawmakers, 46 seats are distributed between
the parties according to how many votes each of them receives. The
parliamentary committee agreed to revise the current election law to
allow voters to cast two ballots starting from the next elections -
one for their preferred candidate, and the other for the party of
The GNP and ULD want to retain the current voting age, but the
Uri Party and the MDP have been pushing to lower it from 20 to 19,
thus enfranchising 800,000 more potential voters, to boost young
people's participation in the voting process.
The Constitutional Court ruled in 2001 that an election law that
allows the largest constituencies to be almost four times larger
than the smallest, at a ration of 3.88:1, violates voters' equal
It said the legislature should revise the law so as not to exceed
the ratio of 3:1.