Political Parties Agree to Revise Electoral Reform Bills Again

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The political parties have succumbed to pressure from civic groups by agreeing to revise the controversial electoral reform bills under fire for their allegedly anti-reform content.

Both the ruling and opposition camps announced yesterday they would renegotiate on the disputed bills, thus delaying action on the bills slated for today to the next House session.

The rival camps are expected to resume negotiations after the inauguration of the new ruling party Thursday.

President Kim Dae-jung yesterday instructed the ruling National Congress for New Politics to revise the electoral reform bills again, with the opposition Grand National Party agreeing to their revision in the face of a strong public backlash.

Chong Wa Dae even hinted at the exercise of the presidential right to veto bills, noting the seriousness of civic groups' protests.

However, the GNP charged Chong Wa Dae with ``political fraud,'' saying the latter was claiming to have no responsibility for the disputed bills, in spite of its interference in the negotiation.

Civic groups jointly attacked the bills, singling out the decision to retain the controversial ban on campaigning by civic groups and the total number of House seats at 299, among others, as unacceptable.

They threatened to file a Constitutional petition against the new reform bills, saying the revision of the electoral system ended up merely safeguarding the vested interests of the political establishment.

``The parties turned their back upon the public's wish for political reform by making a collusive deal to keep their interests intact,'' the Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice charged in its statement.

A leading member of the CCEJ charged, ``The parties should have cut House seats by at least 20 to demonstrate their willingness for reform. But they refused to make even a nominal reduction.''

The civic group also took issue with what it called ``gerrymandering,'' referring to the rezoning of some constituencies ``in favor of the current lawmakers.''

The rival camps went against the principle of constituency rezoning in accordance with population by retaining the eight constituencies in four cities - Wonju, Kangwon-do; Kunsan, Cholla-pukto; Sunchon, Cholla-namdo; and Kyongju, Kyongsang-pukto - despite their population being smaller than required. …