Published : 2013-01-03 19:59
Updated : 2013-01-03 19:59
Under a related law, the National Assembly is obliged to pass the state budget bill by Dec. 2 to allow 30 days of preparation for its implementation. Held hostage to partisan wrangling, however, the parliament has failed to meet that deadline since 2002.
Lawmakers set a new record, not passing the budget bill until hours after the beginning of the fiscal year when they approved the expenditure plan for 2013 early Tuesday morning. This time, it was a tug of war between the rival parties over how to fund the project to build a naval base on Jeju Island that delayed the passage of the bill.
In the final days of budgetary deliberation, lawmakers were preoccupied with securing money for pork-barrel projects in their constituencies. But they did nothing to enact political reforms, which had been trumpeted by the candidates of the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party during their campaigns for the Dec. 19 presidential election.
In the face of public criticism over their inaction, Saenuri officials say they have been busy preparing for the launch of the new administration to be headed by its former leader Park Geun-hye, who defeated DUP contender Moon Jae-in to be elected the country’s first female president. DUP members, for their part, say they need time to reset the party in the aftermath of the election loss.
But their arguments are nothing but excuses that sound little persuasive to the public.
There were a horde of measures the rival parties could have passed if they had intended to do so. During the presidential campaign, both Park and Moon agreed on readjusting the number of parliamentary seats and repealing political parties’ nomination of candidates for local councils. The two main parties have already agreed on a set of measures to cut privileges and trappings for legislative members and prevent them from engaging in other lucrative businesses, with related bills submitted to the Assembly.
Their inactive attitudes were in sharp contrast to the pledges made by their presidential contenders to change politics on their campaign trails. Many people remember Park and Moon agreed during a nationally broadcast TV debate to pass political reform bills through the Assembly even before the presidential vote.
It is a blatant breach of the promise with voters to turn a blind eye to the work on reforming politics after the election. Political reform is a task that cannot and should not be shunned or delayed any longer. The public’s aspiration for changing politics and making politicians more responsive to livelihood matters was reflected in their enthusiastic support for an independent presidential candidate, Ahn Cheol-soo, who eventually gave up his candidacy to the DUP’s Moon to avoid splitting the liberal vote. If the political establishment continues to remain elusive on political reform, it would probably be swept away by another independent wave, including a renewed challenge by Ahn, during the next parliamentary and presidential elections.
Lawmakers are urged to enact measures on reforming political parties and the Assembly during an extra parliamentary session that is likely to be held later this month. The rival parties need not be tied to settling remaining differences. They should focus on enacting what they have already agreed or taken similar stances on. The Assembly should show its will for political reform by passing an initial batch of bills before the inauguration of the new administration in late February.
President-elect Park should also pay more attention to ensure the early passage of reform bills, encouraging ruling party lawmakers to be more active. That would suit her long-standing efforts to frame herself as a trustworthy leader, which helped her win the close-contested presidential election.