Main parties agree on bill to screen UPP lawmakers

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Main parties agree on bill to screen UPP lawmakers

After a minor opposition party failed to vote to kick out two members, both ruling and main opposition lawmakers reached an agreement to introduce a bill that would screen the qualifications of lawmakers, in order to expel the two from the legislature.

Representative Kim Gi-hyeon from the ruling Saenuri Party and Representative Park Ki-choon from the main opposition Democratic United Party yesterday convened a press meeting in the National Assembly to announce eight bills they will propose at the upcoming plenary session on Aug. 30.

One of them would evaluate the two incumbent lawmakers of the Unified Progressive Party, Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon, who won in an allegedly rigged proportional primary, on their qualifications.

“The two parties will introduce a joint proposal on whether Lee and Kim are qualified for a parliamentary seat,” Park said.

“In fact, it’s already confirmed that the two proportional representatives are disqualified in the UPP,” Kim said. “We [ruling party] said it is right to expel them through a qualification screening, but we still have many things to discuss with the DUP in detail.”

The two UPP lawmakers have resisted forfeiting the positions they won in the proportional primary in March. The primary was found to be manipulated by the party’s internal probe.

Despite strong demand from the public and the party to step down, the two proportional lawmakers have refused to resign, backed by hard-line, pro-North members within the UPP.

The UPP’s 13 incumbent lawmakers launched a vote in July on whether to kick out the two fellow lawmakers from the party, which failed by seven votes to six.

While the party’s new leadership still hasn’t resolved the issue, a massive number of members are defecting from the faction-ridden party and its approval rating has hit bottom.

In order to propose the joint bill, 15 lawmakers from the Saenuri and DUP each will have to sign the bill first. After that, the National Assembly speaker will send the two lawmakers to the Special Committee on Ethics.

The committee will summon them and other UPP fellow lawmakers at a hearing to confirm the primary rigging allegations.

The two accused lawmakers can make their case at the hearing.

If the committee determines to punish the lawmakers, the National Assembly speaker can launch a vote on whether to expel them from the legislature. At least two-thirds of incumbent lawmakers should cast ballots in favor of the expulsion.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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