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(LEAD) Parliament in lull before storm over electoral, prosecution reform bills

Politics 14:00 December 11, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS 8th para with explanation about new party)

SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) -- Political parties here appeared Wednesday to be taking a breather following a round of bouts over the handling of next year's budget bill.

The National Assembly passed the bill, worth 512.3 trillion won (US$429.9 billion), Tuesday night, the last day of this year's regular session.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) did not participate in the vote in protest of what it calls the ruling Democratic Party's illegitimate move.

An extra session of the National Assembly began Wednesday, but there's no schedule to open a plenary meeting during the day, a parliamentary official said.

The break would give rival blocs some more time to negotiate the fate of contentious bills, including those on reforming the state prosecutors' office and expanding proportional representation in electing lawmakers.

Also at issue is another set of three fast-tracked bills on toughening audits on private preschools with state subsidies.

The budget bill was submitted by the so-called four-plus-one consultative body, a group of lawmakers from the DP and four minor opposition parties excluding the LKP, after the DP, LKP and Bareunmirae failed to strike a deal on revising the budget.

The LKP has taken issue with the legitimacy of the group as the Justice Party, the Party for Democracy and Peace and a splinter party, which calls itself the "new alternative party," have no formal negotiating bodies on the floor of the parliament. Parties with at least 20 seats are allowed to form such a formal negotiating team.

The LKP accused the ruling party of establishing the group for "collusion."

Some lawmakers with the main opposition Liberty Korea Party continue a protest sit-in at the National Assembly in Seoul on Dec. 11, 2019, after the passage of next year's budget bill the other night. (Yonhap)

The DP has a political burden for passing the national budget bill without the main opposition party with 110 seats in the 300-member unicameral parliament.

It's apparently trying to adjust the pace of handling controversial bills, emboldened by the power and efficacy of the four-plus-one format confirmed in the passage of the budget bill.

Many view the strife over the budget bill as a prelude to a far fiercer fight over major reform bills.

The LKP is exploring a realistic way to prevent the handling of electoral and prosecution reform bills, in particular.

A filibuster can be a stopgap measure, but it's not an ultimate solution. A filibuster on a certain bill is applied to a single plenary session, which enables a vote in the next one.

The LKP may submit its own revision bills. For the ruling party, it's quite burdensome especially to introduce new legislation on election, often called "the rules of the game," without a consensus from the main opposition party.

It remains uncertain whether the rival blocs will be able to reach an agreement, given a sea gap in their positions.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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