Assembly needs backboneThe National Assembly has opened for a regular session but it is likely to sit idly without a set agenda. Ruling and opposition parties cannot agree on a schedule due to differences over the timing of the questioning of government officials on administrative affairs. The ruling Grand National Party wants to stick to the regulations and start the hearings from Sept. 10, as suggested by the law. The opposition Democratic Party demands the hearings be delayed until October after finishing the hearings for ministers following the Cabinet reshuffle. Both sides have passable reasons but we can’t escape the smell of political contrivance in the run-up to the October by-elections.
But there is too much work to be done in the Assembly and we shouldn’t be distracted by political interests. An advisory board to the National Assembly house speaker has released suggestions on constitutional reforms and legislators need to debate realigning electoral and administrative districts, tax reforms and bills on employment. In addition, setting the budget is likely to be particularly tricky this year.
The ruling party has suggested setting up a special committee to work on changing the constitution. Its hope is to bring about the changes in the first six months next year. The Democratic Party opposes this move, saying it is an attempt to confuse the public.
Any constitutional amendments should be finalized before next year’s local elections, though. Political leaders are hardly likely to concentrate on the constitution once the race for the presidency begins. What’s more, the Grand National Party isn’t in desperate need of a distraction and the Democrats were keen to enact a Constitutional amendment toward the end of the late President Roh Moo-hyun’s tenure. So there’s no reason for the DP to put off such reforms.
But if legislators don’t start work immediately on reforming the Constitution, it will become harder for any incumbent administration to push forward revisions.
Revising the electoral and administrative districts, something the DP said it was keen on accomplishing when it was in power, is no less an easier task.
What the National Assembly needs now is a new look. It must close the chapter on the political history of parochialism and ideological antagonism following the passing of former President Kim Dae-jung and his political successor former President Roh Moo-hyun. The downfall of the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party in Japan is a living lesson. Our National Assembly must prepare itself for a new paradigm. The past political backbone - democracy versus anti-democracy and regionalism - is no longer sustainable. The Assembly must be run by a level of comprehensible rationality that the public understands.
Change will not take place overnight, but we have to move in the right direction.