Majority rule counts

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Majority rule counts

When the Chuseok holidays are over tomorrow, the nation gets back to business. But the National Assembly is still in a deep coma. Even though a regular session began 10 days ago, lawmakers are still sitting on their hands. Yet they gleefully received about 4 million won ($3,900) each in a special bonus for the nation’s biggest holiday - for doing nothing. The principle of “No work, no pay” does not apply to this privileged group.

The paralysis stems from the opposition’s critical dereliction of duty as seen in its habitual resort to street protests whenever it is displeased. This time, the New Politics Alliance for Democracy has vowed to kick off a march from Seoul to Paengmok Harbor in Jindo, South Jeolla, where dozens of grieving relatives of the Sewol victims continue to camp out, waiting for the remains of the 10 people still missing in the nation’s worst maritime disaster.

Some opposition lawmakers are opposed to the idea of the march to protest the government’s “uncooperative attitudes” on the special Sewol law, which is aimed at getting to the bottom of the cause of the tragedy. But the NPAD is determined to not deal with any economy-related legislation unless the ruling Saenuri Party capitulates to the demands of the relatives of the victims.

But that’s not what the people want. They want the legislature to get back to business regardless of the special Sewol law. According to a survey by Realmeter, the approval rate for the NPAD stands at a meager 19.5 percent. The research agency said people’s support for the opposition has plunged below 20 percent for the first time. The NPAD suffered a crushing defeat by the ruling party in the July 30 by-elections. The steep plunge in support shows voters’ growing disappointment at the way the opposition is dealing with the Sewol crisis. Yet no sense of crisis is felt inside the party.

The National Assembly law allows the speaker of the Assembly to exercise discretionary power once bills are submitted to a session. The speaker has the power to put those bills to a vote when the ruling and opposition parties cannot reach agreement on the schedule for proceeding with those bills. At the moment, 91 bills are waiting for lawmakers’ decisions after going through deliberations in standing committees. Speaker of the Assembly Chung Ui-hwa must consider using his privilege to pass those urgently needed bills according to the principle of majority rule. He must not delay his decision just because the opposition is opposed. The legislature has not dealt with a single bill for the past five months since the Sewol sinking. Chung must make a decision before it’s too late.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 10, Page 22

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