(ATTN: ADDS more info from interpellation session in last 3 paras; CHANGES photo)
SEOUL, March 19 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and three minor parties engaged in last-minute negotiations Tuesday to work out details over ways to fast-track an electoral overhaul bill and other key reform proposals.
The four parties have reached a tentative deal on electoral reform that would increase the weight of proportional representation, which they want to be applied beginning in the 2020 general elections.
Under the agreement, the overall number of parliamentary seats would be unchanged at 300 while the number of proportional representation slots will be increased to 75 from the current 47.
They agreed to introduce a mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation system in which parliamentary seats are tied to the percentage of voters' support rates for parties, but will operate it in a less strict manner.
If the agreement had been applied to the parliamentary elections in 2016, hypothetical results show that the ruling DP and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) could have lost 18 seats and 16 posts, respectively, while the leftist Justice Party could have gained eight seats.
The LKP has pledged to mobilize every means to deter the fast-track drive, calling it an attempt to kill the top opposition party.
The three smaller parties held separate meetings with their own lawmakers to discuss whether to approve the tentative deal.
They originally proposed raising the number of parliamentary seats to 330 and increasing proportional representation posts to 110.
Some members of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party are complaining about the adoption of the semi-MMP proportion system.
The liberal Party for Democracy and Peace (PDP) expressed concerns that a new deal will likely reduce the number of districts in rural areas, potentially dealing a blow to the party whose main stronghold lies in the southwestern provinces.
The PDP conditionally approved the agreement. The party reaffirmed it will not join other parties' fast-track drive if they do not include a bill aimed at punishing those who disparage the pro-democracy movement in the southwestern city of Gwangju in May 1980.
The four parties are in talks to decide the number of bills that may be put on the fast track along with electoral reform.
The DP wants to fast-track other reform bills in exchange for its agreement to join smaller rivals' push for the MMP representation system.
The minor parties are demanding the guarantee of political neutrality and independence in drawing up bills on a unit to investigate high-ranking government officials over corruption and on enhancing police's authority to probe.
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. This is aimed at preventing a proposal from remaining pending in parliament for too long.
DP lawmakers raised the need to establish a separate unit to probe ranking government officials' alleged corruption as part of the Moon Jae-in government's drive for reforming the prosecution.
"There is a need to set up the investigative unit. Prosecutors can indict judges for alleged corruption. But who can indict prosecutors?" Rep. Lee Seok-hyun of the DP said at a parliamentary interpellation session.
As examples, he cited two sex scandals, involving a former vice justice minister and a late rookie actress, where prosecutors' investigations were seen as inadequate.
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