Parties on both sides reject new electoral map

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Parties on both sides reject new electoral map

The ruling and opposition parties on Wednesday rejected an electoral map proposed by the National Election Commission for the April 15 general elections, asking it to create a new one.

In a joint press conference on Wednesday, floor leaders of the three negotiation groups of the National Assembly said they agreed to turn down the proposed electoral map, submitted by the Electoral Boundaries Commission of the National Election Commission on Tuesday. Chief negotiators of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), main opposition United Future Party (UFP) and a new negotiation group formed by 22 lawmakers mainly representing Gwangju and the Jeolla provinces attended the press conference.

After reviewing the proposed map, the three chief negotiators said they decided to reject it because it violated the spirit and intentions of the Public Official Election Act. They said they will ask the Electoral Boundaries Commission to create another one.

The ruling and opposition parties asked the National Election Commission on Monday to design a new electoral map for the April 15 general elections as their negotiations failed to produce a deal. The National Assembly needs to approve the electoral map by today in order to meet the Friday deadline to create a registration list for overseas voters.

The Electoral Boundaries Commission of the National Election Commission created a proposal and submitted it to the National Assembly on Tuesday, but the plan apparently satisfied no one. It was the first time the Electoral Boundaries Commission submitted its own proposal to the National Assembly since its establishment as an autonomous organ in July 2015.

According to the plan, the total number of constituencies around the country was kept at 253. Sejong City, Hwaseong of Gyeonggi, Chuncheon of Gangwon and Suncheon of South Jeolla each gained one district, while Nowon of Seoul, Ansan of Gyeonggi, Gangwon and South Jeolla each lost one.

Controversy flared about the commission’s decision to take away one constituency in Nowon, instead of Gangnam. As of January last year, Gangnam District had a population of 542,154, while Nowon had 542,744. It was expected that Gangnam’s three constituencies will be merged into two, but the commission actually reduced Nowon’s three constituencies to two.

“Through heated discussion, we made that decision,” Kim Se-hwan, chairman of the Electoral Boundaries Commission, said Tuesday. “It is impossible to explain the entire debate right now.”

In return, Sejong, which recorded the highest population of 316,814 as a single constituency, gained an additional constituency.

The commission also redrew electoral constituencies in other provinces. In Gyeonggi, Hwaseong’s constituencies were increased from three to four, while Ansan was reduced from four constituencies to three. In South Jeolla, Suncheon gained one constituency, while five other constituencies were merged into four.

In Gangwon, Chuncheon gained one, while seven constituencies in the province were merged to six. According to the new map, Sokcho, Cheolwon, Hwacheon, Yanggu, Inje and Goseong were merged into one constituency to be represented by one lawmaker. The constituency covers 4,922 square kilometers (1,900 square miles), eight times larger than the area of Seoul.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang expressed concern on Tuesday about the adjustment in Gangwon. “I think it is against the law,” he said.

Chief negotiators of the three negotiation blocks reiterated the concerns during their press conference on Wednesday.

They said the proposed map was in violation of Clause 1 of Article 25 of the Public Official Election Act. Although the law said “a population obtained as a result of a survey conducted on resident registration record cards, as of the end of the month, 15 months before the election day, shall be the population which becomes the standard for demarcation of local constituencies for electing members to the National Assembly,” the proposed map failed to do so, they said.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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