Time to consider revising Constitution

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Time to consider revising Constitution

In a speech in the National Assembly Wednesday, Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Lee Jae-myung proposed a Constitutional amendment to a two-term, four-year presidency from the current single five-year presidency. He presented a timetable for the amendment, in which political parties would set up a special committee in the legislature after this year’s regular session is over, write a draft for the revision after building public consensus and finally put it to a vote in a national referendum during the 2024 parliamentary elections.

Lee, a former presidential candidate, also mentioned the need to introduce a run-off election so that top two candidates in the first vote compete in a final vote. That reaffirms a promise he made during the campaign. Lee also stressed the need to promote basic rights of the people and strengthen direct democracy by delegating more power to local governments.

Though it is still a volatile issue, a majority of voters agree to the need to change the current five-year single-term presidency, an offshoot of a democratic struggle against the past authoritarian governments. In fact, political parties resort to an all-out war to win the presidential election every five years. Only when the president’s enormous power is diffused, politics of compromise and cooperation can replace that of division and conflict.

Many people already support a Constitutional revision. According to a poll conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo and Hankook Research last October, 66.5 percent of people above 18 agree to the need for the revision. Most lawmakers support it, including past National Assembly speakers, in particular. Current speaker Kim Jin-pyo joined the chorus by vowing to do his best for the amendment within this term.

Past presidents felt the need for revision after passing a halfway point in their term. Roh Moo-hyun announced a draft for the amendment and Moon Jae-in did submit a revision to the National Assembly, though it is still pending in the legislature.

Given apparent disagreements over the details of the revision, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle will be engaged in a ferocious battle until the last minute. But they must start building consensus one by one.

The time has come for the government and the PPP to positively consider the amendment after abandoning their reluctance to recognize the need in the early period of government. Most PPP members actually proposed a revision when they were in the opposition. We hope the two parties collect public views about the amendment and put it on the negotiating table for a sincere discussion this time.
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