|Independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo (left) hold hands with Justice Party leader Chun Ho-sun and Democratic Party chairman Kim Han-gil (right) the first meeting of the pan-opposition alliance in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)|
Political tensions escalated Tuesday as opposition parties allied in seeking a special probe into alleged election interference by state agencies, while the ruling party struck back by pushing for a law revision to curb minority obstructionism.
The ruling Saenuri Party is reportedly moving to revise the National Assembly act to allow certain bills to be exempted from the rule that requires at least 60 percent of the relevant standing committee members’ approval for passage.
The move came as the opposition forces including independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo agreed in principle to jointly submit a bill to launch an independent probe into the alleged illegal interference by state institutions in last year’s presidential election.
The “pan-progressive alliance” comprised of religious and non-governmental groups as well as the main opposition Democratic Party and the minor opposition Progressive Justice Party decided in their first meeting Tuesday to start a taskforce to push for the special investigation.
“We will be seeking joint submission of the bill for the independent probe together with the PJP and Rep. Ahn,” said DP floor leader Rep. Jun Byung-hun.
But Ahn, who had first suggested the special probe last week, distanced himself from the stauncher DP position by saying the probe should be irrelevant to the on-going parliamentary schedule. Observers, nonetheless, forecast that the opposition alliance may be the start of a new opposition force in the run-up to next year’s local elections in June.
The Saenuri Party charged that the opposition was hindering the smooth process of pending livelihood-related bills and indicated its measure to revise the Assembly act was inevitable. In May last year, the National Assembly passed the so-called “National Assembly advancement law” aimed at preventing violence from disrupting the legislative process by enabling a filibuster and tightening the quorum for votes.
The Saenuri Party said it would decide on legal measures including requesting a review by the Constitutional Court of the constitutionality of the relevant laws within this month.
“We have agreed that there is a need to actively pursue the review as there is a chance that the opposition will bring the Assembly to a halt by using the rules to suspend the parliamentary procedure and hold bills and the budget captive,” said Rep. Joo Ho-young, head of the task force created in September.
The party is expected to move towards revising the law to enable the majority party to unilaterally vote on certain bills. The move, however, is expected to face vehement criticism not only from opposition forces but also from reform-minded members of the party.
The DP slammed the move as “denying the basic frame and value of democracy.”
“It shows that the Saenuri Party was simply putting on a show in last year’s parliamentary election by spearheading the ‘advancement law’ as their party pledge,” said DP’s senior spokesman Rep. Kim Kwan-young.
Protesting what they called bias in the prosecution’s investigation into the leak of the 2007 inter-Korean summit transcript and alleged electioneering by NIS officials, the DP has vowed to boycott all parliamentary processes including the budget review, except for scheduled hearings.
The opposition alliance decided to seek an investigation into the government agencies’ election interference, any attempt to conceal the facts and pressure placed on the prosecution team’s investigation. The former prosecutor general and the head prosecutor on the NIS investigation team have been forced to resign and have received reprimand, respectively, which the opposition claims is an example of government’s interference. The DP, in particular, is also pushing to include the summit transcript case in the independent probe as well.
The independent probe bill, however, still requires a vote by the parliament where the Saenuri Party holds the majority of seats.
The progressive alliance also demanded the immediate resignation of presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon and Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn.
Meanwhile, former aides to former President Roh Moo-hyun on Monday apologized to the people for the transcript misplacement controversy.
In a press release, the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation said, “We deeply regret that, despite it being unintentional, the final version was not transferred to the presidential archives, and that it prompted unnecessary debate.”
The prosecution believes that the original version was not transferred at the end of the Roh administration and that significant revisions were made in the final version that was found in the electronic archive system.
By Lee Joo-hee