Way too politicalThe Blue House presented Thursday constitutional amendments that, among other things, changes our presidency from a single five-year term to a four-year term with the possibility of one re-election. That’s the third — and last — in a series of the Blue House announcements of constitutional changes proposed by President Moon Jae-in.
The amendments surely had some positive features such as reducing and decentralizing presidential power. For instance, it contains clauses that would remove the president’s legal status as head of state and restrict the president’s power to pardon. Other noticeable changes include restricting the administration’s right to submit bills and allowing the constitutional court judges to appoint their boss.
But the Moon-proposed amendments fall short of opposition parties’ expectations because they did not reflect their call for the National Assembly’s right to name the prime minister. The amendments also failed to limit the president’s power to appoint heads of powerful government agencies.
There were also problems with the way the changes were proposed. Opposition parties criticized Moon for allowing his aides to explain to the people his proposed constitutional changes. The law stipulates that a constitutional revision must first go through deliberations among cabinet members. The opposition attacked Moon for acting like an emperor.
The legislature holds real power to amend the Constitution. As the opposition strongly opposes both the content and style of the amendments, they will never pass the National Assembly. Nevertheless, the Blue House insists on submitting the bill to the legislature next Monday. If the presidential office pushes for amendments with full knowledge they can’t be passed, the gesture is more than futile. If the amendment is voted down in the legislature, constitutional reform of any kind will almost certainly go down the drain.
The changes should be aimed at putting an end to our imperial presidency once and for all. Turning a public call for constitutional reform into a political battle cannot be accepted. The president’s proposals are viewed as falling way short of reducing the massive power of his office.
Alarm bells are ringing at home and abroad. The Blue House and political parties must have a head-to-head debate to design a better future for the country. They must first reach an agreement on a schedule for the amendments. Taking a savvy political approach is not what the people want from the presidential office or the legislature.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 23, Page 30