Hobbling democratic process

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Hobbling democratic process

It’s the final week of February, but the National Assembly is still stuck in a battle to get legislation through. While the ruling Grand National Party is pushing to handle major bills through the Assembly’s standing committees, the opposition Democratic Party is saying no.

In particular, the Democratic Party has said that the media deregulation bill should not even be submitted to the standing committee. It has gone so far as to threaten physical means to block the ruling party from exercising its authority to put the bill to the committee.

If the situation worsens, it could very well end up as a replay of last year’s happenings at the Assembly, with hammers and fire extinguishers being brandished.

Legislative proceedings are the foremost authority of the National Assembly. When bills are laid before the Assembly, they must go through a standing committee and then to a subcommittee.

After discussions at a public hearing or a similar forum, the bill is deliberated on in the Assembly’s standing committee, the Legislation and Judiciary Committee and then put to a vote at a plenary session of the National Assembly.

This is the legitimate process of passing a bill in a democratic society, as stipulated clearly in the Constitution.

The Grand National Party suggested that some bills be presented to a “cooperative committee” with the agreement of both the ruling and opposition parties after the bills are submitted to the standing committee.

The Democratic Party suggests that for the media deregulation bill, there should be a separate body composed of members outside the Assembly before the bill is laid before the standing committee.

Forming these other organizations is not the right way to go.

The Democratic Party has its own reasons for opposing major bills. Thus, instead of resorting to tactics outside the political arena, it should be bolder in putting its opposition on the standing committee’s table.

Even if the ruling party gets more than the majority vote for a bill, if the opposition attracts the support of the people, it will be hard for the ruling party to pass the bill only with physical force.

The Democratic Party refused to attend National Assembly sessions for 82 days during the anti-U.S. beef protests last year, like a recalcitrant student refusing to attend class. Is the Democratic Party turning into a student refusing to go to school?
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