Tricks and abuseThe ruling Democratic Party (DP)’s railroading of next year’s budget after excluding the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) in the voting process cannot be justified. A move riddled with problems both of substance and style will certainly leave an inexpungible stain on the history of our constitutional democracy.
The problems began with the DP’s scheme to pass a whopping 512.3 trillion won ($428.8 billion) budget bill with the support of four minor opposition parties. The ruling party led by its floor leader Lee In-young pushed the bill in an unprecedented way by creating a “consultative body” among the DP and four opposition parties and passed it after arbitrary adjustments behind closed doors. The ruling party blatantly brushed off the normal procedure specified in our Constitution and the National Assembly Act.
The DP could justify its railroading as it maintained majority rule. But the very act of bypassing a main opposition party with 107 seats constitutes a brazen infringement on the spirit of democracy. We are disgusted at their bold defiance of their proud history of fighting for democracy and against authoritarian governments of the past.
The four-plus-one consultative body did not even leave records of what they discussed in the behind-the-scenes deliberation of the budget bill. Their critical lack of transparency and disrespect for taxpayers’ rights do not speak well of the future of our democracy.
A bigger problem is the super-sized budget itself, which is full of populist pork-barrel projects and welfare programs aimed at currying favor with lawmakers’ constituencies to win more votes in the general election on Apr. 15. Even though the government’s accumulated debts already reached 45.5 trillion won as of October, it plans to issue bonds amounting to 60 trillion won next year. That’s a shameless act of transferring its fiscal profligacy to our next generations.
It is regrettable that National Assembly speaker Moon Hee-sang is accused of violating his duty to neutrality. After brushing off a request from the LKP’s new floor leader Shim Jae-chul to “wait for just an hour,” Moon allowed his allies in the DP and other four opposition parties to put the budget bill to a vote and pass it in a blitzkrieg operation. LKP lawmakers even raised suspicions that the joint passing of the budget bill could be a prelude to a soon-to-come forced passage of the two controversial bills on revising the electoral law and establishing an investigative body to look into corruption among high-level officials as the ruling party wants.
The LKP cannot be pardoned for its obnoxious outdoor rallies. Yet the DP’s arrogance based on numerical strength cannot be ignored. Electoral reform is about fixing the rules of the game and the other two sensitive bills are about repairing our justice system. If the DP abuses power like that, it will face strong public resistance. We hope it respects the politics of compromise before it’s too late.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 12, Page 34