Saenuri challenges NEC on redistricting proposal

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Saenuri challenges NEC on redistricting proposal

The ruling Saenuri Party said that the National Assembly must take back the task of redistricting the national electoral constituency map for the next general elections, encouraging opposition lawmakers to join its move to override the latest proposal by the National Election Commission.

“The proposal presented by the redistricting committee is unrealistic,” Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung said Monday during the Supreme Council meeting. “The Special Committee on Political Reform at the National Assembly must hold a meeting [to counter the proposal].”

After the Constitutional Court ruled last year that the current electoral constituency map was unconstitutional because it resulted in unequal representation due to population changes, the legislature was tasked with revising the map. At the time, the court said the ratio of the most populous electoral district to the least populous must be lower than two-to-one.

The ratio is now three-to-one.

The court has also ordered that redistricting must be completed by the end of the year.

Ruling and opposition lawmakers established the Special Committee on Political Reform in March to address the issue and decided in August that the number of total seats would be kept at 300. It then delegated the task of redistricting to an independent committee under the National Election Commission to complete the new map.

On Saturday, the committee announced that between 244 and 249 districts will be up for grabs. With the decision, it is expected that the number of lawmakers elected by ballots will be kept the same, at 246, or be increased by three maximum.

The rest of the 300 parliamentary seats for the 20th National Assembly will be elected through a proportional system. That also means that the number of seats allocated to rural areas in the Gyeongsang and Jeolla regions will be reduced, while representation in the capital region will increase.

The ruling party, which has enjoyed widespread support from conservative elderly populations in rural villages, responded with furor.

“In our simulation, North and South Gyeongsang will lose four seats, Gwangju and North and South Jeolla will lose another four seats and Gwangwon will lose two,” Kim said. “In two areas, six counties will become one electoral district, and in another two areas, five counties will become one district. It is impossible for a lawmaker to manage more than four counties.”

The ruling party is also pushing the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) to join its plan to increase the number of lawmakers elected through ballots, while reducing the number of proportional representatives.

NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in, however, has been adamant that the number of proportional representatives cannot be cut.

“The NPAD said it won’t allow a decrease in proportional representatives, but that is not the consensus of all its lawmakers. Many NPAD lawmakers representing rural areas are protesting the committee’s plan,” Rep. Lee Hak-jae, the Saenuri’s chief negotiator on the Special Committee on Political Reform, said on Tuesday.

On Monday, the opposition lawmakers whose districts are endangered held an emergency meeting with ruling party lawmakers in a similar situation to discuss their next moves and demanded the independent redistricting committee allocate a certain quota of electoral districts to rural farming and fishing villages.

“The Special Committee on Political Reform had until Aug. 13 to decide on the standard of redistricting but it failed to do so and asked us to create a new map,” a committee official said. “Now that we announced our plan, the lawmakers are criticizing it. This is absurd.”

Under the election law, the ruling and opposition parties have just one chance to reject a redistricting proposal submitted by the committee. After the committee submits a revised plan, the National Assembly must hold it to a vote.

The law, however, has no particular course of action for when the plan is voted down.

BY SER MYO-JA, NAMGOONG WOOK [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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