Political reform still a priority
The National Assembly is proceeding with political reforms despite the behind-the-scenes power game at the Blue House. The ruling and opposition parties must continue with their agenda to finalize the reform bills during the ad hoc session that begins next week.
It is meaningful that the ruling Saenuri Party ratified a set of recommendations by the party’s reform committee. Under the proposal, the party will draw up guidelines to stop the payment of allowances to lawmakers when the National Assembly or permanent committee sessions are not in progress, or to lawmakers who are arrested. The no-work no-pay proposal was passed despite complaints by some lawmakers. The rule could rein in reckless legislative walkouts.
The reform plan also includes a proposal to stop irregular fund-raising through book publishing events. It will bar the president, lawmakers, governors and mayors, and local councilmen or candidates from public offices for receiving political donations through book sales or entry fees to publishing events. Stricter regulations to prohibit secret payments should also be added when the bill is reviewed.
The party also decided to leave the work of drawing up electoral districts to an independent body under the National Election Committee. The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy has also made a similar proposal, raising hopes that gerrymandering will come to an end.
However, the party suspended its decision on recommendations to change the lawmakers’ immunity to detentions and arrests. The committee proposed that a motion to allow lawmakers to be arrested should be considered automatically endorsed if it is not put to a National Assembly vote within 72 hours. But lawmakers called for further study as the provision could clash with the constitutional rights of legislators. The party must come up with a new proposal to include in the final reform plan.
Political reforms including the renunciation of various benefits that lawmakers enjoy are a key part of the campaign to rebuild the nation following the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry. The key to political reform should be an overhaul of the nomination system for candidates. A fair nomination process can ensure democratic and responsible legislative activities.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 10, Page 34