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Ruling, minor parties signal push for putting electoral reform bill on fast track

15:26 February 19, 2019

SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and its three smaller rivals said Tuesday they may seek to "fast-track" a bill on electoral reform as the outlook for a bipartisan agreement on the bill remains murky.

Minor opposition parties are pushing for the introduction of a new proportional representation system for electoral reform ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections. But partisan negotiations have made little progress as the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) remains lukewarm toward the reform.

The minor conservative Bareunmirae Party, the Liberal Party for Democracy and Peace (PDP), and the leftist Justice Party agreed in principle that they will seek to put the electoral reform bill on the fast track next month if there is no further progress in discussing the issue.

The National Assembly can designate a bill that fails to get bipartisan support as a fast-track proposal if three-fifths of lawmakers approve the move. It is aimed at preventing a proposal from being pending at parliament too long.

Once a bill is put on the fast track, it automatically can be put to a vote at a plenary session without deliberation or approval by a relevant committee.

But if rival parties fail to reach an agreement at some point, the fast-track bill can be voted on at a plenary session only after a maximum 330 days have passed following its designation.

The three minor parties believe that whether to put an election reform bill on the fast track should be decided by mid-March in a bid to hold the 2020 parliamentary elections under a revised election law.

The ruling DP is positive on pushing for the fast-track designation with the minor parties.

"If the LKP strongly opposes (the electoral reform), we are considering putting it on the fast track," DP chairman Lee Hae-chan told reporters.

The minor parties are considering last-minute negotiations with the LKP for one or two weeks after the conservative party elects its new leadership next Wednesday, according to party officials.

The DP and four opposition parties agreed in December to come up with proposals to reform the election system by January, but they have failed to do so amid protracted partisan wrangling.

The DP and the minor parties shared a need to overhaul the current winner-take-all district scheme, but they also differ on details.

The smaller parties seek to introduce a mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation system in which parliamentary seats are tied to the percentage of voters' support for different parties. But the ruling party wants a looser MMP system.

Minor political parties and a civic group hold a press conference in front of the main building of the National Assembly on Jan. 31, 2019, in this file photo, calling for the introduction of a new proportional representation system for electoral reform. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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