Saenuri proposes reducing number of lawmakers

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Saenuri proposes reducing number of lawmakers

The ruling Saenuri Party yesterday proposed to cut the total number of lawmakers as part of efforts to promote political reform measures, reversing its previous position against the idea.

The major opposition Democratic United Party, which had also opposed the plan raised by former liberal independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, also changed its position and agreed to the ruling party’s proposal.

“We propose cutting the total number of lawmakers to a reasonable level based on a bipartisan agreement,” said Lee Hahn-koo, floor leader of the Saenuri Party. “Even in the past, the Saenuri Party was never supportive of increasing the number of lawmakers.”

Accepting the ruling party’s proposal, Park Ki-choon, deputy floor leader of the DUP, said, “[The two parties] should set up a political reform special committee at the National Assembly to pass the related bill.”

Cutting lawmaker numbers was one of the key pledges made by Ahn, who unexpectedly announced his support for Moon yesterday.

The general public has been supportive of Ahn’s idea and has been calling on political leaders to make meaningful sacrifices as part of a political reform measure.

The proposal yesterday by the Saenuri Party is seen as an effort to absorb voters who had supported Ahn, many of whom have now become undecided voters after the liberal independent withdrew his candidacy last month.

Political analysts, however, note that it remains to be seen whether the ruling party’s move will be effective in absorbing Ahn’s supporters because the professor-turned-politician said yesterday that he will fully support the DUP candidate.

In the past, the conservative party and the DUP had not favored the idea of reducing the number of lawmakers, arguing that such a move will compromise the National Assembly’s role of checking the government and representing public interest.

Ahn Dae-hee, chairman of the ruling party’s political reform committee, complained back then that “Cutting the lawmakers numbers is part of an election strategy [by Ahn].” DUP’s Moon also said “It’s not the right to incapacitate parties and constrict politics.”

“Even if the two parties set up a special committee, the actual decision of cutting lawmaker numbers will be made as early as 2015,” said an official from the Assembly.

By Kim Jung-ha, Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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