Denial of democracyThe National Assembly has turned into a venue for physical altercations among lawmakers for the last two days. That happened after Rep. Oh Shin-hwan of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party (BP), a member of the Special Committee for Judiciary Reform, declared his opposition to the idea of putting on a “fast track” an act designed to establish a special law enforcement body to investigate corruption among people with power. As other opponents in the party and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party joined forces in a crusade against the bill, the legislature on Thursday became a heated battleground between those who support the idea and those who do not.
We are disappointed at the way the leadership of the BP thinks and behaves. The party even used a fax to deliver a letter to National Assembly speaker Moon Hee-sang to avoid a physical clash with opponents and notify him of its decision to replace Rep. Oh with another lawmaker who supports the bill. Such a move not only violates the National Assembly Act, but it also goes against democracy. First, the National Assembly Act prohibits political parties from changing their members on committees during special sessions of the legislature to protect the integrity of committee members.
The constitution of the BP allows the party to force its lawmakers to comply with decisions by the party leadership only when two-thirds of its lawmakers agree. But the party leadership failed to get that show of support. Coercing Oh to follow the party line or replacing him with another lawmaker violates its own rules and the Assembly Law.
It is doubtful whether the bill is worth pushing, as it confines the scope of indictments allowed under the new law to judges, prosecutors and high-ranking police officers after exempting the president’s relatives, lawmakers and ministers, and deputy ministers of the government. As a result, it cannot indict them even when they are involved in a massive scandals related to abuse of power.
A bill on electoral reform has its own problems. Although it was linked to the passage of the special act, the bill is too complex for lawmakers to understand. The main opposition Liberty Korea Party vehemently opposes it. If electoral reforms cannot be accepted by players of the game, they cannot be used as rules of the game.
There are rumors that the BP struck a political deal with the ruling party in return for some benefits. We hope the rumors are not true. But even if they are, are these bills worth pressing ahead with? The leadership of the BP must start all over.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 26, Page 34