Partisans wrangle over constitutional revision ahead of voting deadline
SEOUL, South Korea's political parties on Wednesday bickered over a government-proposed constitutional revision on the eve of the deadline for a parliamentary vote on the controversial bill.
The National Assembly speaker called a plenary session Thursday to review and vote on the constitutional motion proposed by President Moon Jae-in in March.
The proposal calls for changing the current five-year presidency limited to a single term in favor of a one-time renewable four-year presidency.
Thursday is the final day for parliament to vote on the bill, otherwise it would be effectively nullified.
Opposition parties called on Moon to withdraw the bill, warning that they will boycott Thursday's session. But the ruling Democratic Party (DP) pressed them to attend, citing lawmakers' duty under the Constitution.
"A parliamentary speaker convenes a plenary session under the Constitution. If opposition lawmakers refuse to attend and vote, the move undermines constitutional values," said Hong Young-pyo, the floor leader of the DP.
But opposition parties urged Moon to revoke the bill, claiming that the president's proposal lacks public consensus.
"If President Moon withdraws the bill, bipartisan cooperation could produce a fresh bill on constitutional revision," three minor opposition parties said.
"Without consultation with parliament, it is impossible for the government-proposed bill to be passed at the National Assembly," they said. "If the bill is voted down, it will be clear that discussions for revising the Constitution will be harder."
The partisan wrangling comes just days after lawmakers passed an extra budget bill and a proposal to appoint a special prosecutor to probe into an online opinion rigging scandal involving a former ruling party lawmaker.
Under the Constitution, the National Assembly should vote on a constitutional revision bill within 60 days of the proposal being put on public notice. For parliamentary approval, yes votes of more than two thirds of current lawmakers are required.
In the 288-member parliament, the ruling DP holds 118 seats, insufficient for a quorum for a vote.
Changing the power structure in South Korea is the key point of the constitutional revision. There are calls to revise the current presidential system in which too much power is concentrated in the hands of the president. The Constitution was last amended in 1987.
The government and the ruling party previously hoped to put the bill to a national vote on the same day as the June 13 local elections.
But even if the bill is passed, it is physically impossible to ask the public whether to approve the constitutional revision on the local elections day due largely to rival parties' recent failure to review the law on national referendums.
The law on national referendums was ruled unconstitutional in 2014 for limiting the suffrage of South Korean citizens and expatriates in overseas countries.
Source: Yonhap News Agency