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(2nd LD) Opposition boycott scuttles Moon's bid for constitutional revision

2018/05/24 11:52

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(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in paras 6-8)

SEOUL, May 24 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in's proposal for a constitutional revision was scuttled Thursday as opposition parties boycotted a parliamentary vote to pass the controversial motion.

The National Assembly convened a plenary session at 10:00 a.m. to deal with the bill proposed by Moon in March, which called for changing the current five-year single-term presidency to a four-year presidency with the possibility of one re-election.

Only 114 ruling party lawmakers attended the session and participated in the vote. Immediately after the vote, the speaker declared it void due to a lack of a quorum. Its passage required approval by more than two-thirds of lawmakers.

In the 288-member parliament, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) holds 118 seats, which is insufficient for a quorum for a vote.

Thursday was the deadline for parliament to vote on the bill. As the deadline cannot be met, it will be effectively nullified. The Constitution requires lawmakers to vote on a constitutional revision bill within 60 days of it put being on a public notice.

"It is very regrettable that the government-proposed motion was scuttled," National Assembly Speaker Chung Se-kyun said after the voting.

The speaker called on lawmakers to produce a new bill on the revision through consultations until next month.

"But aspirations for the constitutional revision remains intact and most South Koreans agree on the need to amend the Constitution. Lawmakers should produce a fresh bill as soon as possible and put it up for people's decision," he added.

This image, captured from footage of Yonhap News TV, shows the number of each political party's seats in the 288-member parliament. (Yonhap) This image, captured from footage of Yonhap News TV, shows the number of each political party's seats in the 288-member parliament. (Yonhap)

The constitutional revision is intended to change the structure of power in South Korea. There are calls to revise the current presidential system as too much power is concentrated in the hands of the president. The Constitution was last amended in 1987.

Opposition parties had threatened to boycott the session, calling on Moon to withdraw the motion.

They claimed that the government-sponsored motion was drawn up without adequate consultation with parliament.

But the ruling party urged opposition parties to attend the session, citing lawmakers' duty under the Constitution.

With the voting nullified, partisan wrangling is expected to deepen just days after the National Assembly passed key bills Monday following a parliamentary impasse of around 50 days.

The parliament approved a 3.83 trillion won (US$3.54 billion) extra budget bill and a proposal to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate an online opinion rigging scandal involving a former ruling party lawmaker.

The scandal centers on allegations that Kim Kyoung-soo, a former DP lawmaker who has close ties to Moon, knew and communicated with a power blogger, known by his nickname Druking, who rigged online comments on news stories with his team to sway public opinion.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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