Parties to Negotiate Political Reform Bills This Week

Article excerpt

Ruling and opposition camps are scheduled to embark this week on negotiations of political reforms bills which will critically affect the fate of parties in the general elections next April.

Key issues of the negotiations include whether to revise the existing single-member constituency into a multi-member district and how to share political funds provided by the state.

The coalition ruling camp envisages a larger polling district to elect two to four lawmakers per constituency, while the opposition Grand National Party insists upon retaining the existing single-member constituency.

The ruling camp is also pushing for a new proportional representation system under which the ratio of nationwide seats in relation to electoral districts would increase from the current 5.5:1 to 2:1 and voters would cast two ballots one for a candidate and another for a party.

President Kim Dae-jung has said that making both ruling and opposition parties``national'' parties is the prime objective of the electoral reform bill, saying that without changing the election system, several ``regional'' parties will emerge following the April general election.

The opposition camp staunchly opposes the ruling camp's proposal in recognition of its disadvantaged position under the new system.

How to share political donations is another controversial issue, with the ruling party insisting the state collect political donations from every firm paying 300 million won or more in corporate tax, while the opposition demands that businesses paying 100 million won or more also be subjected to political donation.

As to how to divide the state subsidy for parties, the ruling camp sticks to a policy of distribution in proportion with the number of National Assembly seats. The opposition proposes 40 percent of the subsidies be equally distributed to the parties, with the remaining 60 percent divided in relation to the number of parliamentary seats.

The rival camps do however, largely agree on reduction of the National Assembly seats, now totalling 299, to 270 and abolition of the party's local branches or chapter offices nationwide. …