Minor parties reach deal on electoral reform bill

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Minor parties reach deal on electoral reform bill

Three minor parties and one fringe group reached a deal over a contentious electoral reform bill on a parliamentary fast-track Wednesday in an effort to apply new rules for next year’s general elections.

But it is still uncertain whether the ruling Democratic Party (DP) will accept their agreement as it adamantly opposes the adoption of a new way of allotting proportional representation (PR) seats.

The DP and its four rivals are seeking to produce a single deal over the adoption of a new proportional representation system and detailed operating rules, despite objections from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party.

After they failed to produce a breakthrough Tuesday in the so-called 4+1 consultative body, the chiefs of the three smaller parties and the splinter group separately met earlier in the day to iron out their differences.

The ruling party and four other players seek to introduce a mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation scheme in which parliamentary seats are tied to the percentage of voters’ support for parties.

The four agreed to accept the ruling party’s demand to impose a cap on the number of PR seats that will be allotted under the MMP representation system. The DP and its smaller rivals are now seeking to raise the number of PR posts to 50 from the current 47 while keeping total parliamentary seats at 300.

Wednesday’s agreement showed that out of the proposed 50 slots, up to 30 seats will be distributed under the MMP representation system, and this rule would be applied only for the April 15 general elections.

The four also decided to adopt a new election rule that allows a candidate to run for both a directly elected parliamentary seat and a PR slot. The system permits a candidate who loses an election by a thin margin to get a PR seat.

“We will strive to accomplish a mission to reform the election system and the state prosecution through close coordination. In that sense, we’ve thought that an electoral reform cannot be further delayed,” Sohn Hak-kyu, chief of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party, told reporters.

“We will continue to push for strict operation of the MMP representation system,” he added.

Smaller parties are hoping to adopt the MMP representation scheme to increase their presence in South Korean politics, as it is usually dominated by two main parties.

The ball is now in the DP’s court.

The governing party has spurned the smaller parties’ demand to permit a candidate who loses an election by a narrow margin to get a PR seat. It raised concerns that the system could be misused to ensure parliamentary seats for multiple-term lawmakers.

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