Blue House pleads for a new law on referendums

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Blue House pleads for a new law on referendums

The presidential office Blue House on Wednesday called on the National Assembly to swiftly revise a law on national referendums that has been declared unconstitutional, the first step to enabling a public vote on a constitutional amendment.

The call comes amid government efforts to put a constitutional revision bill to a vote during local elections slated for June 13.

However, it also comes amid a parliamentary standoff over a set of disputed bills that has effectively crippled the ongoing parliamentary session since its opening on Monday.

Rival parties remain divided over how and when to revise the Constitution though they agree on the need for revisions.

“Leaving the unconstitutional law on national referendums intact is an act that deprives the people of their right to vote, which not only makes it impossible to amend the Constitution but also leaves us unable to ask the people’s opinion about major policies related to the security of the nation,” Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok told a press conference.

The law was ruled unconstitutional in 2014 for limiting the suffrage of citizens overseas. The law became null at the start of 2016 after rival parties missed a 2015 deadline to revise it.

The government submitted its own bill on constitutional revision to the National Assembly late last month.

It first needs to pass the unicameral parliament to be put to a national vote concurrently with the mayoral and gubernatorial elections.

However, such a vote will not be possible unless the parliament first revises the law on national referendums, Im noted.

“Regardless of any agreement on the direction of a constitutional revision, (the parties) must first move forward to revise the law on national referendums if they have the sincerity to revise the Constitution,” he said.

President Moon Jae-in has said the government will withdraw its proposal on a constitutional revision should rival parties come up with their own single bill. The Constitution was last amended in 1987.

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