(ATTN: ADDS details in 8th para, last six paras)
SEOUL, Dec. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's National Assembly on Friday passed an election reform bill to introduce a new proportional representation system and lower the voting age amid fierce protests by opposition lawmakers.
The revision bill has been at the center of a monthslong political spat after the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and smaller opposition parties placed it on a legislative fast track in late April, along with a set of bills to overhaul the prosecution and set up an independent body to probe high-level corruption.
Scuffles erupted at the National Assembly's main hall as lawmakers from the conservative Liberty Korea Party (LKP) occupied the speaker's podium to block the vote on the election law. Speaker Moon Hee-sang exercised his power to restore order and mobilized security guards to control the protesting lawmakers.
Moon managed to put the bill to a vote in which a total of 167 lawmakers, just more than half, took part. It received 156 votes in favor, while 10 members opposed it and one abstained.
Moon introduced the motion during a previous extra session on Monday but the LKP blocked it with a filibuster. Under parliamentary rules, the party could not use such obstructive tactics with the same bill on Friday.
Under the revised law, which will come into effect for April parliamentary elections, the number of directly elected seats and proportional representation slots will be unchanged at 253 and 47 in the 300-member National Assembly.
But the method of distribution of PR seats will be changed to better reflect the vote share and boost the presence of minor parties, which have largely been underrepresented in the current scheme.
Under the revision, 30 of the 47 PR seats will be decided under a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, which allocates PR seats so as to compensate for any inequity produced by the district seat results.
The new law also includes lowering the legal voting age to 18 from 19.
The LKP denounced the ruling party-led revision, which is expected to sharply decrease the two major parties 'PR seats.
LKP floor leader Shim Jae-chul reaffirmed the party will push for a constitutional appeal to nullify the passage of the "monstrous" electoral bill.
The party also said that it will start work soon to launch a new small satellite party aimed at garnering PR seats in the upcoming elections.
Following the vote, Speaker Moon put another contentious bill on the agenda, prompting the LKP to stage a further filibuster late at night.
This bill calls for establishing a separate unit to probe corruption by high-ranking public officials as part of the Moon Jae-in administration's efforts to reform the prosecution.
The filibuster is expected to continue until midnight Saturday when the current extra parliamentary session ends.
A filibuster against a specific bill is effective during only one parliamentary session.
The DP has requested the opening of a new extra session for Monday to vote on the envisioned anti-corruption investigative body, which it jointly promotes with minor opposition parties.
After passing the bill, they plan to proceed with another controversial bill which is aimed at giving more investigative power to the police.
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