Legislature will stay at 300 seats: Nat’l Assembly

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Legislature will stay at 300 seats: Nat’l Assembly

In response to a Constitutional Court ruling last year that ordered a redistricting of the national electoral constituency map, the National Assembly on Tuesday agreed to keep the number of its lawmakers at 300, dismissing the opposition’s suggestion to raise it to 369.

The Special Committee on Political Reform, established in March to discuss the issue, finalized the decision and said it would be applied to the next general election scheduled for April 13.

The National Election Commission (NEC) will be in charge of the redistricting, though whether it can win public trust or support from the ruling Saenuri and main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) remains to be seen.

The two parties are now at a standstill over the matter.

In October, the Constitutional Court ruled that the current electoral constituency map was unconstitutional, arguing that it resulted in unequal representation due to population changes. The court added that the ratio of the most populous electoral district to the least populous must be lower than two to one, and that redistricting must be completed by the end of this year. The ratio is now three to one.

The decision means that the number of seats allocated to Gyeongsang and Jeolla will be reduced, while representation in the capital region is expected to increase. The Gyeongsang region is considered the traditional stronghold of the ruling Saenuri party, while the Jeolla region is considered home to the liberal bloc.

In the current 300-seat legislature, 246 are elected lawmakers, while the rest are proportional representatives. Among 246 constituencies, 112 are in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi. Based on the ruling, the number of seats in the capital region is set to rise to 134.

The National Assembly was tasked with redrawing the nation’s constituencies, and the NEC in February proposed an increase in the amount of proportional representatives: a two-to-one ratio between lawmakers voted in by their constituencies and proportional representatives.

It also called for proportional representatives to be determined by regional votes: According to the plan, the political party that wins more than 30 percent of votes in a region will be able to name a proportional representative for that region.

The suggestion to up total seats in the legislature to 369 was initially introduced by a special NPAD committee, which argued that it was inevitable in order to respect the Constitutional Court ruling.

The proposal called for the number of proportional representatives to be raised to 123 and distributed based on six regional populations: the capital region, Gyeongsang, Jeolla, Chungcheong, Gangwon and Jeju. The Saenuri was unenthusiastic about the changes, in large part, because they would better serve the NPAD.

The proposal was also controversial on its own with the public adamantly against more lawmakers being paid via tax money. A Gallup Korea poll conducted in May showed that only 5 percent of the public said they approved of the National Assembly overall.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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