[EDITORIALS]Acting prime ministers

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[EDITORIALS]Acting prime ministers

Acting Prime Minister Chang Sang now has yet one more obstacle to face -- charges that her job is unconstitutional. The Grand National Party has claimed that it is unconstitutional for an acting prime minister to execute any official acts. As the party claims, there is no provision in the constitution that says an acting prime minister can fill in when there is a void.

This belated objection by the party seems to be more of a political strategy aimed at the Aug. 8 by-elections than anything else. But GNP intentions aside, the constitutional question should be settled.

Strictly speaking, Ms. Chang's official post is prime minister-nominee. She will become the prime minister when her appointment is approved by a select committee of the National Assembly and then by the entire Assembly. An acting prime minister is a concept rooted in the history of Korea's constitution under the tradition of strong authoritarian presidents.

In the Kim Young-sam administration, prime minister nominees did not exercise their powers until they were approved by the Assembly, a process little more than a rubber stamp because Mr. Kim's party held a majority in the Assembly. This administration, which has a minority in the Assembly, has gone back to using an acting prime minister designation to bypass Assembly approval.

The "acting prime minister" concept is a remnant of authoritarianism and has no basis in negotiation and compromise. It is the child of a marriage between the necessity to uphold the constitution and the realities of politics.

The times demand that the imperial presidential system be abolished. This means the acting prime minister designation should be abolished to be true to the new law on Assembly hearings of appointments which will be applied for the first time on this prime minister's nomination.

It is also regrettable that the authority to recommend cabinet members was entrusted to the outgoing prime minister, a clear breach of the constitution. If we do not solidify the constitutional base, this issue will be brought up again during the next administration.
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