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GNP lawmakers seek to restrict speaker’s role

A group of reformist lawmakers in the ruling Grand National Party on Wednesday submitted a revision bill to curb the National Assembly speaker’s authority in calling for a vote on bills at his own discretion.

The bill aiming to prevent the dominant party’s unilateral propulsion of parliamentary proceedings is expected to face opposition from the ruling camp, which has been criticized for passing several controversial bills by taking advantage of the system.

Rep. Jungwook Hong submitted the bill on behalf of 13 other lawmakers. “We hope this will bring the parliamentary culture to a level where lawmakers can come to an agreement through negotiations, not violence,” he said.

The bill holds the National Assembly speaker to exerting his authority in putting bills to a vote only at times of national crisis or emergency. 
Jungwook Hong
Jungwook Hong

Also, lawmakers will be able to file a “discharge petition” for the immediate referral of a bill to the National Assembly if it has been pending at a standing committee for more than 180 days. The submitted bill will require attendance of 60 percent of assemblymen and approval from half of them. Since the GNP holds 171 seats of the 297-seat legislature, or not quite 60 percent, the bill would make it unable to railroad legislation through in the face of resistance from the opposition.

“In this bill, we have given up certain privileges we have had as a governing party. We hope the opposition party would respond to the reformation with sincerity,” Hong said.

The bill was drawn up after fierce criticism against the GNP over its unilateral passage of the budget bill for 2011 in December.

National Assembly speaker Park Hee-tae submitted the bill, including in it funds for the four-river refurbishment project and other pet projects of the Lee Myung-bak administration, at his own discretion despite opposition resistance. After prolonged unrest as the GNP tried to overcome a filibuster, the bill passed with 170 out of 171 ruling party members’ approval.

Some denounced Park for making too many unnecessary submissions: He submitted four bills in 2010, his first year as speaker.

The main opposition Democratic Party welcomed the submission. “It is cause for optimism that GNP members are showing signs of regret for what they have done,” said the party spokeswoman Jeon Hyun-heui in a previous press briefing.

But the GNP leadership reacted coldly to the proposal. “There are reasons for authoritative submission,” said floor leader Kim Moo-sung. “We need to look at ways to stem violence inside the National Assembly first.”

Parliamentary spokesman Han Jong-tae said that the speaker “stressed that he has used his authority only when it was necessary and urgent.”

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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