LKP blocks vote on major bills

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LKP blocks vote on major bills

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Lawmakers from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party stage a sit-in protest in front of the entrance to the main conference hall of the National Assembly on Friday to block the passage of contentious bills. [YONHAP]

The ruling and opposition parties failed Friday to follow through on an earlier agreement to hold a plenary session to vote on dozens of bills, including some politically volatile ones, as the main opposition party decided to filibuster to block the proceedings.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang and floor leaders of three main parties - the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and Bareunmirae Party - agreed in the morning that they would hold a voting session at 3 p.m. Friday. They agreed to first vote on 22 bills linked to the budget bill that was passed on Tuesday and dozens of uncontentious bills.

After that they planned to introduce a series of five contentious bills, including a bill to revise the election law, for a vote.

The contentious bills had been designated fast-track items in April after the DP and LKP had failed to agree on them. Earlier this month, Speaker Moon sent them for pre-voting deliberation. The DP and its allies are backing a bill to introduce a new general election system and a package of bills to weaken the prosecution’s powers by creating a new investigative agency for public servants and redistributing investigative power between the police and prosecution. The LKP adamantly oppose them.

“Among the fast-track items, the election law revision bill is the top priority,” said Rep. Lee In-young, floor leader of the DP, after the morning negotiation with the LKP and Bareunmirae counterparts. “We want to vote on all fast-track bills, but I am not sure if we can discuss other bills if the LKP filibusters the election law revision bill.”

The DP said the election law revision bill must be passed before Tuesday because registration for the April general election candidates begins that day.

After a plan to hold the voting session at 3 p.m. was announced, the LKP held a general assembly of its lawmakers and finalized a strategy to filibuster a voting session in order to block the contentious bills.

The party’s agreement in the morning was an apparent ruse to make the DP submit a motion to open an extraordinary session to hold the voting session. Only then could it submit a request to filibuster it.

“We must use all possible means to stop their attempt to ram through the fast-track bills,” Hwang said. “Even if we need to lie down in the lobby, we must fight until the last moment.”

Hwang, then, started a sit-in demonstration in front of the entrance of the National Assembly’s main chamber around 2:40 p.m. in a show of defiance. LKP lawmakers joined Hwang.

The plenary session was delayed.

The LKP also filed a motion to filibuster a motion, submitted by the DP, to open an extraordinary session. It was the first bill to be deliberated if the plenary session started.

Speaker Moon urgently asked the floor leaders of the three parties to meet with him, but LKP floor leader, Rep. Shim Jae-cheol, and Bareunmirae floor leader, Rep. Oh Shin-hwan, did not respond.

After meeting with Moon, Rep. Lee In-young, floor leader of the DP, expressed his frustration. “The agreement we reached in the morning was denied,” he said. “We agreed in the morning that they won’t filibuster a motion to hold an extraordinary session,” he said. “But the LKP did.”

Shim, however, refuted Lee’s claim. “I never said clearly that we won’t filibuster it,” he said.

The LKP also challenged the DP’s argument that a motion to open an extraordinary session is not subject to filibuster, citing a clause in the National Assembly Act.

According to the act’s Clause 2, Article 106, a lawmaker, who desires to filibuster an item on the agenda referred to the plenary session must submit a request to the speaker, signed by at least one-third of all incumbent lawmakers.

In such a case, the speaker shall implement the filibuster.

BY SER MYO-JA, YI WOO-LIM [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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