Making battle plans for free lunch vote

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Making battle plans for free lunch vote

The ruling and opposition parties yesterday began preparations to face each other over the political gamble taken by Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon in pushing for a referendum on how the city should proceed with its free school lunch program.

While the ruling Grand National Party said it will encourage voters of Seoul to cast ballots to support Oh’s idea of giving free lunches only to selected students, the opposition Democratic Party said it will encourage voters to boycott the referendum, scheduled for next month, to nullify Oh’s plan.

The GNP decided yesterday on its position to support Oh in a senior leadership meeting after a debate. It invited Oh to the Supreme Council meeting and listened to his position, but the Seoul mayor was unable to join the session as he was occupied with the torrential rain hitting the city. The GNP’s Supreme Council and senior lawmakers with more than four terms decided to support his campaign.

Oh has taken a big risk on the lunch referendum, in which Seoul citizens will vote whether to abolish the meal program passed by the Democratic Party-controlled city council in December.

While Oh and the Seoul Metropolitan Government promoted a step-by-step program of providing free lunches to students from the lower 50-percent-income households by 2014, the DP wants free lunches for all elementary school students starting this year and all middle school students starting next year. Some third- and fourth-graders in Seoul started receiving free lunches this spring.

While some Supreme Council members such as Representatives Yoo Seong-min and Nam Kyung-phil expressed opposition to Oh’s decision to arrange the referendum without consulting first with the ruling party, most GNP leaders said it was necessary for the ruling party to support Oh.

Oh is expected to announce the referendum plan before Aug. 1, and the voting is expected to take place around Aug. 24. For the mayor to override the city council’s plan, the turnout must be higher than 33.3 percent and Oh’s plan must win a majority vote.

The conservative ruling party appeared to see the referendum as an important milestone to stop the Democrats’ aggressive welfare campaign ahead of next year’s legislative elections. The GNP said it will begin efforts to protest the DP’s free school meal plan. While the ruling party and lawmakers representing Seoul are barred from directly engaging in campaigns, they can express their opinions through media interviews or public discussion sessions.

The Democrats are also fighting back. The DP has filed an injunction with the Seoul Administrative Court to stop the referendum, claiming that the city government had committed procedural flaws while collecting signatures to arrange the vote. The Seoul Metropolitan Education Office also filed a petition with the Constitutional Court.


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


한글 관련 기사 [연합뉴스]

서울시 무상급식 주민투표 발의 잠정 연기

법정기한인 8월1일 이전 발의할 듯
'피해복구 시급…투표일 큰 변동없다'

서울시가 28일로 예고됐던 무상급식 주민투표 발의를 잠정적으로 연기한다.

서울시는 이번 기습폭우로 큰 피해가 발생한 만큼 피해복구에 총력을 기울이기 위해 무상급식 주민투표를 잠정 연기하기로 결정했다고 27일 밝혔다.

발의 법정 기한은 주민투표 요지 공표일로부터 7일 이내이므로 8월1일 이전에 발의가 이뤄질 것으로 예상된다. 서울시는 지난 26일 주민투표 요지를 공표한 바 있다.

이종현 서울시 대변인은 "서울지역 주민의 의사결정의 제1호 정책선거이며, 부자 무상급식과 서민 무상급식의 주민의견을 결정하는 이번 투표가 매우 중요하지만 서울 지역의 피해복구와 피해주민들의 지원이 워낙 시급하다는 오세훈 시장의 판단에 따라 우선 법정기간 이내로 발의를 미루기로 했다"고 설명했다.

그는 "발의만 미루는 것이지 투표일에는 큰 변동이 없을 것으로 본다"고 덧붙였다.

한편 이 대변인은 "한나라당이 무상급식 주민투표를 당력을 모아 지원하기로 한점은 매우 큰 힘이기에 적극 환영한다"고 말했다.

그는 그러나 "무상급식 주민투표를 '나쁜투표'라며 거부하기로 한 민주당은 전면 무상급식을 집권전략이라며 몰아붙이고, 그것도 모자라 서울시의 220개 시민사업 3천900억원의 시민예산을 삭감해 전면 무상급식을 몰아붙여 결과적으로 주민투표를 초래한 자신들의 책임을 전가하는 나쁜 정당이 아닐 수 없다"고 주장했다.

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