Impasse in the chamber

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Impasse in the chamber

Provision 2 of Article 54 in the South Korean Constitution stipulates that the National Assembly must vote on a budget bill 30 days before the fiscal year begins. The Constitution requires the National Assembly to review and pass the budget before the Dec. 2 deadline because of its significance in funding for governance. With just a few days left until the deadline, the 19th Assembly has not even begun to review the government’s budget proposal.

The main opposition Democratic Party declared a boycott of all legislative proceedings after the ruling Saenuri Party railroaded through a motion to confirm Board of Audit and Inspection chief-nominee Hwang Chang-hyon. The 53 cabinet members, including the prime minister and deputy prime minister, waited around the entire day in hopes that the Budget Committee would proceed to review the 2014 budget bill.

The government’s operations are in jeopardy because the leaderships of both the ruling and opposition parties have been too carried away by extreme voices within the respective parties. The DP played a high-stakes game in regards to the confirmation of the head of the inspection agency, which has been without a governor for several months. It suggested that it could approve the nomination if the ruling party gave up the nomination of Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo.

The DP chose to leave the Assembly chamber without physically blocking the vote, which only underscores how weak its opposition has been. It acted later as a group of students or union activists by convening a general meeting and proclaiming a walkout. Does the party have any concern for the national interests? The leadership and members of the DP should pay heed to moderate voices like first-term Representative Choi Min-hee, who lamented how the party will be viewed by the public if it habitually walks out of the Assembly. She emphasized that the primary role of legislators is to make laws - to work in the Assembly.

Floor leader Choi Kyung-won and Yoon Sang-hyun, a senior member of the Saenuri Party, flatly refused the DP’s suggestion of creating a four-member executive council between the two parties to resolve the impasse over allegations that the spy agency interfered in the last presidential race. The executive members of the party should help make the operations of the legislative smooth, not worsen the situation. They should have the courage to persuade the president to break the ice with the legislature. That is the right way to restore the status of the ruling party as well as allowing maneuvering room for its main opposition counterpart.

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