(ATTN: UPDATES with passage of bills by parliament in paras 3, 9-11)
SEOUL, Dec. 31 (Yonhap) — The speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly outlined his ultimatum to resolve the electoral system standoff, political sources said Thursday.
The ultimatum given to the heads of the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea earlier in the day makes it clear that unless a resolution is reached by midnight, when the current electoral system becomes null and void, the speaker will have no other recourse but to ask a committee under the National Election Commission to tackle the critical impasse.
National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa has urged the two rival parties to reach a settlement, but negotiators have not been able to bridge the gap, despite the next parliamentary race looming just around the corner on April 13.
The deal breaker so far has been the difference on how to elect proportional representatives, with the ruling party pushing for reduction in the numbers of proportional representative seats.
The Constitutional Court had ruled that the way the 300 lawmakers were elected to office violated “equality of votes” rule and must be corrected. The country’s parliament is made up of 246 district seats, directly by constituencies and 54 proportional representative seats that are picked from support given to parties by voters.
Parliamentary insiders said that the special committee is expected to come up with a compromise early next month, with the plan to be reviewed by the parliamentary standing committee in charge of administrative affairs.
Chung is expected to put the reform bill on redrawing the electoral map to a vote on Jan. 8, which is the last day of the current session of parliament.
“Today’s meeting between Chung and the heads of the rival parties was not meant to resolve differences,” a Saenuri party official said. He pointed out that it was designed to highlight what actions will be taken down the road.
Besides failing to reach a middle ground on the electoral system, lawmakers were unable to tackle labor related laws and bills aimed at fueling growth in the service sector, easing rules that can allow industry-wide restructuring and anti-terrorism legislation. Lawmakers, moreover, delayed passage of a bill calling for improved human rights in North Korea.
On the other hand, they did pass minor laws that include rules governing online voting and providing more support in dealing with contagious diseases, harmful car emissions and emergency rescue operations.