Tyranny of majority
Unilateral legislation is insult to democracy
The outgoing Moon Jae-in administration and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) have completed a legislation process to deprive the prosecution of its investigative powers, despite strong opposition from the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) as well as prosecutors, lawyers and professors. The ruling camp cannot deflect criticism for railroading related bills through the National Assembly in an apparent bid to prevent the prosecution from investigating allegations of corruption and abuse of power raised against the Moon government.
On Tuesday, President Moon promulgated the legislation in a Cabinet meeting, allowing it to become a law which will take effect in four months. He ignored demand by the prosecution and the PPP that he should exercise his veto power. The move came hours after the DPK passed a revision to the Criminal Procedure Act in a 164-3 vote with all PPP lawmakers abstaining in protest against the majority party's reckless and unilateral legislation process. On Saturday, the DPK also rammed through an amendment to the Prosecutors' Office Act that is aimed at limiting the prosecution's investigation to only two crimes ― corruption and economic crimes ― instead of the current six.
The legislation also calls for the complete deprivation of the prosecution's all investigative powers that will be handed over to a to-be-created investigative unit resembling the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in one year and six months. The DPK argued that the legislation was inevitable to prevent the prosecution from abusing its power for political purposes. But the PPP criticized the DPK for attempting to protect the ruling elite from possible investigations over corruption and abuse of power just before Moon's term ends May 9.
It is wrong for the DPK to neutralize the prosecution by taking advantage of its majority power. The governing party has not done anything at all to have discussions with the opposition parties. Nor has it made any effort to build a social consensus over the issue. What the DPK has done over the last three weeks was to flex its muscle as a majority party which holds 171 seats in the 300-member Assembly. It has only used tricks and loopholes to get rid of obstacles to its unilateral legislative push.
On April 22, the DPK and the PPP agreed to accept a compromise proposal presented by Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug. But the PPP retreated from the agreement, caving in to mounting criticism for colluding with the DPK in stripping the prosecution of its investigative power. Then, the DPK sped up the legislation in the face of opposing voices from all walks of life, including legal experts and civic activists who express concerns about the weakening of the criminal justice system.
In every respect, the DPK's legislation is seen as the tyranny of the majority. It is apparently an insult to the rule of law and democracy. The DPK and the Moon government have trampled on the spirit of the National Assembly Act which was revised in 2012 to block a majority party from railroading bills through the Assembly. They have left an indelible mark in the history of the country's parliament history.
Now, the Constitutional Court should decide whether the legislation is lawful. It is also urgent to lay the legal groundwork to prevent a majority party from abusing its legislative power.
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