Parties agree on formation of ad hoc parliamentary panels

SEOUL, The ruling and opposition parties on Tuesday reached an agreement on how to form six ad hoc parliamentary committees.

Rival parties had been at loggerheads over the number of seats that should be allotted to each party on two key special committees on political and judicial reforms.

The agreement is expected to help revive tepid discussions on the overhaul of the parliamentary electoral system and the proposed enhancement of the police's authority to investigate independently of the prosecution.

If launched, the political reform panel should first handle the issue of re-drawing the districts for parliamentary elections in April 2020.

By law, districts should be finalized one year before a general election. To this end, the panel should approve the composition of a redistricting committee that will be set up by the state election watchdog.

The parliamentary panel is also tasked with discussing how to overhaul the electoral system, including the introduction of a German-style mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation system.

Under MMP, the number of parliamentary seats each party receives is tied to the percentage of voters' support they receive.

Currently, a voter casts two ballots for general elections -- one to select a single representative for each district and the other to pick a party for proportional representation.

Minor opposition parties are strongly calling for the adoption of MMP representation.

The ruling Democratic Party is largely lukewarm toward the reform, but its chief has recently hinted at a positive position, saying that discussions for electoral reform could happen, separately from talks on a constitutional revision.

Meanwhile, the committee on judicial reform is expected to delve into the government's proposal to allow police to have greater investigative power.

The government announced in June that it will empower police to initiate and close cases without approval from the prosecution as part of long-delayed reforms of the division of investigative powers.

The parties also agreed to vote on the confirmation motions for President Moon Jae-in's picks for three Constitutional Court justices at a plenary session on Wednesday.

Last month, the National Assembly held confirmation hearings for the three nominees, who were recommended by each political party. But it failed to adopt hearing reports, protracting the process of composing the nine-member panel.

"The parties agreed to vote on them, given that the vacancy of the panel can no longer be left alone," according to a joint statement reached by the floor leaders of the DP, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party.

They also decided to enhance the verification process for candidates named at major public posts and to improve a confirmation hearing system.

"During the ongoing regular parliamentary session, we will come up with measures to improve the process of reviewing the qualifications of candidates for public posts who are recommended by parties," it said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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