Election reform bill referred to parliamentary plenary session

SEOUL-- An election reform bill on a parliamentary fast track was automatically referred to a plenary session Wednesday, heralding intense partisan tensions over the passage of the contentious proposal.

With about four months to go till the April general elections, a bill aimed at adopting a new proportional representation (PR) system is ready to be put on the table.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and three minor parties put key political and judiciary reform bills on the fast track in late April despite strong objections from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP).

The election reform bill would introduce a mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation system in which parliamentary seats are tied to the percentage of voters' support for parties.

It would raise the number of PR slots from the current 47 to 75, while keeping the total number of parliamentary seats unchanged at 300.

A bill placed on the fast track should be put to a parliamentary vote within 60 days of its referral.

But it remains to be seen whether the parliamentary procedure will go smoothly, given intensified political tensions over other contentious fast-tracked bills on setting up an independent unit to probe corruption allegations by high-ranking public officials and on giving more investigative authority to police.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang earlier announced a plan to refer those bills to a plenary session set for Dec. 3.

The conservative LKP has protested the reform bills, insisting that the process to put the bills on the fast track was illegal. Its chairman, Hwang Kyo-ahn, has been staging staged a hunger strike, which entered its eighth day Wednesday, in protest.

The DP hopes that those bills could be passed at the National Assembly before Dec. 10, when the ongoing parliamentary regular session ends.

But for the ruling party, it would be burdensome to overhaul the election system without an agreement by the largest opposition party.

Minor parties are also wrangling over potential changes to details of the election reform bill.

Various ideas are being floated over how to adjust the ratio of the number of directly elected seats to PR ones, with proposals including 250 to 50 and 240 to 60.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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