Altering Constitution urged by reps

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Altering Constitution urged by reps

The 150-day legislative paralysis ended Tuesday with an agreement by the ruling party and opposition on a special law to investigate the Sewol sinking, which has breathed new life into calls to amend the Constitution.

Some 30 members of the so-called “Meeting of Lawmakers Pushing the Amendment of the Constitution” had a breakfast meeting yesterday as a run-up to forming a special committee devoted to the goal by the end of this month.

The theme of the meeting was: “Political reform and a Constitutional amendment for the 2020 system: Parliamentary democracy.”

The group was formed in 2011 and had its last general meeting in February.

It aims to revise the current presidential system to a semi-presidential system based on France’s, in which the president is elected by universal suffrage and endowed with considerable powers, while at the same time the prime minister heads a cabinet subject to assembly votes of confidence.

The system would reduce the president’s term from five years to four but allow reelection.

“We should enter into active discussions by forming a special committee as soon as possible,” said Rep. Lee Koon-hyon of the ruling Saenuri Party.

The group of lawmakers hopes to finalize an amendment by the first half of next year, when no significant election is scheduled.

A general election is scheduled for 2016 and a presidential election for 2017. Saenuri senior lawmaker Lee Jae-oh, who is a well known advocate for constitutional change, said the lengthy paralysis at the National Assembly stemming from a standoff on the Sewol law fueled the need to reform of the charter.

“Observing the negotiations between the ruling and opposition parties about the law, I thought if the administration was decentralized, cabinet members would have stepped down and a new cabinet would have been established to stabilize the political situation much earlier,” the multiple-term lawmaker said.

He also condemned the current system for allowing the prime minister to remain in his job after tendering his resignation.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won left office 11 days after the April 16 ferry accident to take responsibility for the tragedy that killed more than 300. However, President Park Geun-hye let him keep his job two months after she accepted his resignation following two failed attempts to replace him.

“A prime minister who withdrew from his post coming back is preposterous,” said Rep. Lee.

The group currently has 152 lawmakers as members. If 48 more joined, it would have two thirds of the National Assembly’s 300 seats, enough to pass a constitutional amendment.

Rep. Yoo Ihn-tae of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy also said, “I feel embarrassed when [some lawmakers] say the amendment is necessary but this is not the right time. What other time is better than now?”

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