Give up your vested power firstPoliticians are out to bump up the number of their seats in the National Assembly. Sim Sang-jeung, chairwoman of the left-wing Justice Party, claimed that the sticking point in the electoral reform bill would be the adjustment of seats for representatives for constituencies and proportional representatives. It would be most desirable to increase the current 300 seats by10 percent to 330 seats, she said.
Rep. Sim put the electoral reform bill on a fast track as the head of the political reform special committee in April while promising not to increase the number of seats. At the time, she said the number of seats won’t change because the people do not want it. But she has changed her mind now that the reform bill is on a fast track to be passed. Sim sided with President Moon Jae-in’s controversial appointment of Cho Kuk as justice minister, citing respect to the presidential power. But she did not make any apology after Cho resigned. She came under fire for bending principle for political gain. The Justice Party may have to change its name to self-serving party.
She seems to be aware of the problem. Her move could be suspected as being motivated by a deal with the ruling Democratic Party (DP) to pass the electoral reform bill together with a DP-proposed bill to create an extra law enforcement agency targeting high-level government officials. The electoral reform bill proposes reducing the number of seats representing constituencies to 225 from the current 253 and increasing proportional representative seats. Smaller splinter parties are against the move as their seats are in jeopardy. Many in the ruling party fear they could lose their constituencies.
Therefore, Sim may have come up with the idea to first ease their dissatisfaction and then draw support from the small parties for the bill to establish a new law enforcement agency. The DP has not openly backed Sim’s idea, given the negative sentiment over the Cho Kuk scandal.
The reform bill to strengthen proportional representation is designed to break the regional conflict from bipartisan political structure and promote more diversity from plural party system. But an attempt to abuse the momentum to increase the number of lawmakers cannot be tolerated. Politicians once promised to pare their prerogatives such as immunity, but didn’t follow through. It is why they are not trusted. Before they think of increasing the number of seats, they must yield their vested power to show the will for reform.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 29, Page 34
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