[EDITORIALS]A broken legislature

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[EDITORIALS]A broken legislature

We have many lawmakers, but they are not in the National Assembly where they belong. The Assembly was supposed to convene on May 30 for the next session of the 16th National Assembly. But there is no agreement on a speaker or committee chairmen. What are the handsomely paid lawmakers doing?

Korean law says the new speaker has to be elected five days before the old speaker's tenure expires. That is a coercive clause to prevent the National Assembly from lapsing, even briefly. There is no legislation allowing the Assembly to select an acting speaker, which means that lawmakers must elect their speaker -- full stop. The National Assembly has been violating the law for more than 20 days. How can it ask others to abide by the laws that they produce?

At issue is the quarrel over the speaker's gavel between the Grand National Party and the Millennium Democratic Party. The GNP asked for a free vote to elect the speaker; the MDP is reversing its own logic by saying that it merits the speakership because it is the ruling party. After President Kim Dae-jung resigned from the party in order to spare it the association with him and his scandal-embroiled sons, the party further distanced itself from the president by saying it was no longer the ruling party.

In fact, the "ruling party" should not automatically take the speaker. There is a separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and the majority in the legislature should decide its leader. A free vote to choose the speaker would favor the GNP, but it is a neglect of duty and a betrayal of the people that the MDP keeps avoiding that logic.

At a recent meeting of floor leaders, the MDP postponed any discussion of normalizing the National Assembly, saying they are in internal turmoil over responsibility for the landslide defeat in the local elections. What else are they there for but to work on legislation? We cannot understand their point; is it acceptable to neglect the National Assembly because they have to prepare for the Aug. 8 by-elections and the presidential election six months from now?

On the Judiciary Committee's agenda are more than 19 bills for the people's livelihood that have already been agreed by both parties. The MDP must return to the National Assembly as its first order of business. The people spoke on June 13, and they will speak again.
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