“Talk of a constitutional revision will come up again as soon as the Seoul G20 summit is over in November, and that isn’t right,” Sohn was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.
“The people are not interested in a constitutional amendment and it’s not like it will improve the economy.”
The ruling bloc has sought to amend the constitution, last revised in 1987, as early as this year to largely split the power concentrated on the president.
A majority of the ruling Grand National Party who have supported President Lee Myung-bak since his intra-party competition to run for president, such as party chairman Ahn Sang-soo, call for a system where the president shares more of his authority with the prime minister. Lee’s political archrival and the GNP’s leading presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye wants a different system where the president can be re-elected for two consecutive four-year terms.
“(The drive for) constitutional amendment is no more than a political play. Those who want to discuss it now are simply trying to distract political attention to somewhere else,” Sohn said.
“A four-year presidential term and allowing re-election could be considered if really necessary for responsible governance, but the president can still do a lot of work under the current five-year single term system.”
Sohn also downplayed the ruling bloc’s move to shift from the current single-member constituency system to having multiple elected officials represent a larger electorate as part of efforts to tackle deep-rooted regionalism. The southeastern Gyeongsang provinces are often dominated by the conservative GNP and the southwestern Jeolla provinces by the liberal DP.
“I don’t think it would solve everything,” he said.
“The elections for local councilors, county and ward chiefs are based on the medium electorate system and several DP councilors get elected, but not to the extent of changing the political composition.”
Sohn suggested instead applying the national share of votes to each region to elect some of the candidates who lost as proportional representatives.
The recently elected DP leader has said that the constitutional amendment should be discussed by the next administration.
GNP leader Ahn Sang-soo said that wasn’t a good idea.
“I don’t think the issue can be determined by several people in the (party) leadership,” Ahn was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.
“Former President Kim Dae-jung had promised to adopt a parliamentary cabinet system through alliances with Kim Jong-pil and got elected as the president, but the promise was never kept. I don’t approve of Sohn’s proposal.”
Along with Minister of Special Affairs Lee Jae-oh, GNP floor leader Kim Moo-sung and even Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, Ahn has raised the need for a constitutional amendment.
“Once the Seoul G20 summit is successfully concluded, we should start discussing constitutional revision based on a variety of ideas,” Ahn said.
GNP’s strongest presidential frontrunner Park, however, has spared her words on the issue as she is in no hurry.
Park recognizes the need for a constitutional revision, but does not believe it is the right time yet, according to those close to the former GNP chairwoman.
“The general public does not identify with the issue at all especially when they are so concerned about the economy,” said a pro-Park legislator.
Besides, the more the constitutional amendment is focused on revamping the power structure rather than meeting demands from the people to keep up with changes, it becomes nothing but political scheming, he said.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com)