'Tyranny of majority'
Ruling party should embrace opposition
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) has come under attack for its winner-take-all mantra after it took all but one of the chairman's posts at the National Assembly's 18 standing committees. The monopoly of the posts is the direct result of a failure to strike a deal with the opposition United Future Party (UFP) over which party should chair the Legislation and Judiciary Committee to ensure democratic checks and balances.
On Monday, the Assembly elected DPK lawmakers to lead 11 standing committees as the rival parties failed in their last-ditch effort to reach an agreement on the issue. This increased the number of the DPK's total committee chairman's posts to 17. This is the first time since 1985 that any governing party has monopolized the posts.
The floor leaders of the parties seemed to have reached a package deal to assign seven of the committee chairmanships to the UFP. But at the last minute, the main opposition party rejected the deal because its hardline legislators insisted on chairing the Legislation and Judiciary Committee.
The UFP has been at loggerheads with the DPK over the committee chairmanship since the new Assembly was inaugurated May 30 following the April 15 general election. The conservative opposition has insisted that it should lead the committee to check the "tyranny" of the strong ruling party with 177 seats in the 300-seat unicameral Assembly. The committee plays an important role as it reviews all bills to be submitted to the Assembly. The UFP is also apparently seeking to curb the Moon Jae-in administration's push for prosecutorial and judicial reform.
Whatever the reason, the absence of compromise between the two parties has led to political deadlock. Even worse, the DPK and the UFP are playing a blame game in order to shirk their own responsibility for the rocky start to the Assembly, and the partisan confrontation.
UFP floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young denounced the DPK for "destroying" parliamentary democracy with a "one-party monopoly." The minor progressive Justice Party did not participate in a vote to elect the committee chairmen to protest the DPK's unilateral move. However, the DPK blamed the UFP for refusing to compromise over the issue. Then it vowed to pass pending bills even without the cooperation of the opposition.
Yet, the UFP cannot avoid criticism for refusing the deal and framing the DPK as returning to "dictatorship." For its part, the DPK should take responsibility for breaking its promise to form a partnership with the opposition. President Moon is also not free from criticism because he has so far failed to keep his campaign promise to promote "cooperative politics" with minority parties.
Before it is too late, the rival parties must fix the problem through dialogue and compromise. This is not the time for partisan struggles, but for bipartisanship. The DPK should work together with the UFP to pass this year's third supplementary budget bill of 35.3 trillion won ($29.3 billion) aimed at creating jobs and stimulating the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.