GNP factions clash over amending Constitution

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GNP factions clash over amending Constitution

Following a heated altercation between rival factions over the constitutional amendment to end the current five-year, single-term presidency, the Grand National Party said yesterday that it would hold a general assembly of lawmakers later this month to discuss the issue.

“Every politician has his or her own philosophy and ideal,” Kim Moo-sung, GNP floor leader, was quoted as saying by spokesman Ahn Hyoung-hwan at a meeting of senior party members yesterday. “But the current presidential system is a failure. All five former presidents lived unfortunate years after their retirements. Some were even expelled from their parties. Many lawmakers believe a change is necessary, but the discussion has been postponed.”

Kim said a constitutional amendment to divide the power concentrated in the presidency is a key to ending the country’s perennial problem of regionalism, according to Ahn.

Kim also expressed his support for a constitutional amendment to introduce a U.S.-style presidential system in which a president can be elected for two four-year terms and which includes a vice president.

“A discussion on this matter must begin, and a general assembly of lawmakers should be held at the end of January,” Kim was quoted as saying.

The plan to open a discussion on the constitutional amendment came after pro-Lee Myung-bak and pro-Park Geun-hye lawmakers confronted each other during the meeting.

Representative Lee Kyeong-jae, a Park supporter, criticized the pro-Lee faction’s attempt to push forward the constitutional amendment before reaching a consensus inside the party. GNP Chairman Ahn had met with Liberty Forward Party leader Lee Hoi-chang on Monday to discuss the matter.

A constitutional amendment requires the support of two-thirds of the National Assembly, making it impossible for the GNP to pass the amendment without the oppositions’ help.

“The discussion on the constitutional amendment began outside the party, while the issue was never officially raised inside the GNP,” Representative Lee said. “Some agree with the necessity, but it is absolutely important to confirm the national consensus before discussing the constitutional amendment.”

He also said it was paradoxical for the ruling party leadership to want to change the presidential system, even though Lee’s approval rating is high, reaching over 50 percent. “And President Lee didn’t even mention the issue in his New Year’s address,” he said.

Urging the pro-Lee faction to stop the effort to amend the constitution, he also said, “It is important to remember that a few politicians are trying to bring up the issue in order to keep their positions strong ahead of the next presidential election.”

Pro-Lee members challenged the pro-Park faction’s position. “I believe the public loathes the current politics,” said Representative Chung Ui-hwa, deputy speaker of the National Assembly. “And the National Assembly, marred with violent melees, is partly responsible. As a means to change the culture, it is important to think about a constitutional amendment to change the current system, in which power is unnecessarily concentrated in the president.”

Chung said the current presidential system is the reason that the opposition parties “oppose the president for the sake of opposing.” He said it is crucial for the current system to be revised for the country’s future.

Following the confrontation, GNP leaders, including Chairman Ahn Sang-soo and floor leader Kim, said lawmakers should hold a meeting later this month to decide the matter.

The opposition Democratic Party called the GNP’s decision to discuss the constitutional amendment “untimely,” urging the ruling party to pay more attention to other urgent issues.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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