Clashes are expected to continue as South Korean legislators begin negotiations on amending the constitution this week.
This comes after President Moon Jae-in on Monday submitted a government-drafted proposal on constitutional revision, as a means of pressuring parliament to speed up deliberation.
Floor leaders of the country’s three main political parties agreed to meet Tuesday to talk over major points of reform.
Observers say, however, reaching a compromise won’t be easy as various aspects of constitutional revision remain under heated debate.
Opposition lawmakers have been highly unimpressed with President Moon’s push to produce a government-drafted revision bill in order to hold a referendum at the same time as the June 13 local government elections.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party said the top office and the government should keep out of matter, as constitutional revision should be led by parliament which represents the people.
The centrist Bareunmirae Party has also criticized the “unilateral” move from the president, KBS reported.
Moon and his ruling Democratic Party have insisted the simultaneous ballots were promised to the public by all political parties during the presidential election last year, blaming the LKP for hindering the parliamentary process.
The president said if parliament comes up with its own revision bill, the government may retract its proposal.
One of the major changes included in the government’s proposal is shortening the presidential term from the current five years to four years, while allowing two consecutive terms.
The liberal bloc says this will substantially limit executive power, a move to counter abuse-of-authority following the massive corruption scandal surrounding former President Park Geun-hye in 2016.
However, the LKP and minor parties including the Bareunmirae Party believe more authority should be delegated to the prime minister, saying that the two four-year successive terms will not break up the current concentration of power on the president.
Conservatives have also voiced concern that the government-drafted bill aims to politicize the constitution with “socialist” overtones on historical events and land ownership.
Even if the political parties manage to draft their own revision bill, they must submit it by May 4 and put it to vote by May 24, in order to hold a referendum alongside the local elections.
But the LKP says discussions on amendments must continue until a special parliamentary panel on the issue ends its term in June, Yonhap reported.
In order to pass a constitutional revision, two-thirds of the 293 lawmakers must vote in favor and a majority of the public in a nationwide referendum.
The ruling party must gain the support of LKP lawmakers, if it wants to pass a revision bill, as it only has 121 seats.
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