Lawmakers fail to agree on electoral map

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Lawmakers fail to agree on electoral map

Leaders of the ruling and opposition parties failed on Wednesday to reach an agreement on redrawing electoral map for the second consecutive day, an indication of the high stakes involved for the both parties as they prepare for the general election in April.

Ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung and his opposition counterpart Moon Jae-in had a three-hour discussion along with six other lawmakers, three from each party, in an attempt to find common ground on the contentious issue.

Talks fell through, however, as both sides failed to narrow their differences. Another meeting is scheduled for today. The legal deadline to redraw the electoral map is Friday.

During discussions, the Saenuri called for reducing the number of lawmakers elected through the proportional system, which currently stands at 54, so that the reduction in seats across rural areas could be kept at a minimum - a demand the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) refuted.

Discussions on redrawing the electoral map began after the Constitutional Court ruled last year that the current constituencies resulted in unequal representation due to population changes. The court said the ratio of the most populous electoral district to the least populous must be lower than 2 to 1.

The ratio is now 3 to 1.

To meet the demand for a 2:1 ratio, a reduction in the number of elected parliamentary seats in rural areas has become the crucial talking point.

In March, ruling and opposition lawmakers established the Special Committee on Political Reform to address the issue and decided in August that the number of total seats in the National Assembly would be kept at the current 300.

It then delegated the task of redistricting to an independent committee under the National Election Commission (NEC).

However, the committee failed to reach a conclusion last month despite marathon talks due to deep disagreements among committee members, who represented different political parties.

With the election just five months away, redrawing the electoral map has become a matter of utmost concern.

A delay in its conclusion would upend the campaign period for legislative contenders, as some districts could potentially merge.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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