SKorean president proposes new presidential system

President Roh Moo-hyun on Tuesday proposed that South Korea adopt a new presidential system that allows the country's leader to seek re-election, as the nation is set to elect his successor later this year.

Roh said in a nationally televised speech that he would seek to revise the constitution to change the current single five-year presidential term to two four-year terms, saying the new system would promote policy continuity and stability in state affairs.

By law, Roh cannot seek re-election even if the presidential system is changed, his office said.

"The single-term system, above all, damages presidential responsibility as it is impossible for the president to have his performance evaluated through the next election," Roh said.

He also said the current system can even cause a "national crisis" by making it difficult for the president to responsibly manage state affairs when his tenure nears its end.

Electing a new president this year under the proposed system would also allow future presidential elections to be held in the same year as parliamentary elections, which are held every four years, Roh said.

Staging the nation's two biggest elections in the same year would help lessen political confrontation between rival parties and save the country a lot of energy, he said.

Roh said he would formally initiate a bill to revise the constitution after collecting views from the public and political parties. He also said changing the presidential system was one of his campaign pledges.

Roh was elected in late 2002 and his term ends in February next year.

South Korea is set to elect a new president in December.

The country adopted the single five-year presidency in 1987 while introducing a direct presidential election system after decades of rule by military-backed leaders.

Roh said the main purpose of the system was to prevent a president from seeking to remain in power through irregular means, but the country's democracy is viewed by many as mature enough for that to no longer be a concern.

Roh is widely seen as a lame duck, with his approval ratings remaining at rock bottom amid perceptions that he bungled security and economic policies, including a failure to curb soaring housing prices.

Either the president or the National Assembly can initiate a constitution revision bill. Such a bill requires a two-thirds approval at the parliament and then a majority approval in a national referendum to pass.

The chances of Roh's offer passing through the National Assembly appear low because the main opposition Grand National Party, which holds more than a third of parliamentary seats, is opposed to the proposal, reports AP.

The ruling Uri Party welcomed the proposal. Its chairman, Rep. Kim Geun-tae, accused the opposition party of opposing Roh's offer over concerns it may affect its lead in the presidential election, according to Yonhap.

Newspaper polls have shown that GNP presidential hopefuls have far greater support from the public than their ruling party counterparts.

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