2012 revision of Assembly Act is upheld by court

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2012 revision of Assembly Act is upheld by court

The Constitutional Court dismissed Thursday a challenge to the current National Assembly Act that said it unlawfully restricted the speaker’s authority to send a bill for a vote.

Nineteen lawmakers, many of them members or former members of the Saenuri Party, claimed that their rights to review and vote on bills were violated when National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa refused to introduce some contentious bills directly to a voting session. They said Chung’s refusals were based on unconstitutional clauses of the National Assembly Act introduced in 2012.

“The National Assembly speaker’s refusal to introduce a bill directly to a voting session based on clause 1 of Article 85 of the National Assembly Act did not violate the lawmakers’ rights to review and vote on bills,” the court said.

Following decades of embarrassing physical melees in the legislature, the ruling and opposition parties in 2012 amended the National Assembly Act to force more compromise into the parliamentary process and prevent a ruling party from railroading bills with its majority. Under the revision, a bill can only be put up for a vote when three-fifths of lawmakers, or 180, consent to it.

The revision significantly reduced the speaker’s power to introduce a bill for a vote without first going through parliamentary committees. The speaker can call a vote only when a natural disaster, a war, an incident or a national emergency occurs or when the speaker reaches an agreement with each negotiating party.

Rep. Joo Ho-young and 18 other Saenuri lawmakers filed a lawsuit against Speaker Chung in January 2015 after he repeatedly refused to introduce contentious bills to a vote. He refused to do so for 11 bills including a North Korean human rights bill in December 2014 and 10 more bills including a bill on advancement of the services industry in January 2015.

The lawmakers argued that the revised National Assembly Act violates the Constitution because it defies majority rule, making it an unconstitutional violation of their rights.

Five out of nine judges rejected the argument, while two voted for dismissal, and two voted to accept the argument.

The court said the speaker’s authority to call a vote is an abnormal, exceptional legislative procedure, and the clause restricting the authority does not infringe upon the lawmakers’ ordinary legislative rights. Because the ruling said there was no violation of lawmakers’ rights, the court actually rule on whether the revised National Assembly Act went against majority rule or not.

Since the Saenuri Party lost its majority in the National Assembly commencing on May 30, the reaction from political circles was subdued

“I respect the court’s decision,” said Min Kyung-wook, the Saenuri’s floor spokesman. “It is the task of the incoming National Assembly to solve the contradictions within the revised National Assembly Act.”

BY LEE YU-JUNG, IM JANG-HYUK [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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