NRC charter vote holds the key to next election

national August 06, 2015 01:00


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THE NATIONAL Reform Council (NRC) is scheduled to vote on the new charter draft on September 7, whose outcome could have implications for the next election and the life of the military-backed government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
If the NRC agreed on the new charter, the authority will hold a referendum to endorse it in January and call a new general election by September next year.
If the charter were to be rejected by the NRC, the junta would need time to draft a new one, inevitably delaying election until at least April 2017.
Prayut said yesterday that he would leave office in accordance with the road map. “This is not the time to talk on this matter. The interim charter has laid out the procedure. If the new charter is not approved, we have to write a new one,” he said. 
The meeting on September 7 will also allow NRC members to propose an additional question in a national referendum for the draft. The major question to be asked in the referendum is whether to extend the government’s term by another two years for reforms to be completed before the election. 
Whip secretary Alongkorn Ponlaboot said the NRC whip meeting yesterday had resolved to schedule September 7 as the tentative date for the NRC to vote on the charter draft. 
However, Alongkorn said the date was not yet officially fixed, as it needed to be endorsed by NRC President Thienchay Kiranandana who is currently in hospital. Alongkorn said the date could be either September 5, 6 or 7, depending on Thienchay’s decision. 
To approve or disapprove the charter draft, the NRC members will vote without any discussion and any decision would need three-fifths or 125 votes out of total 249 NRC members, he said. 
The whip also resolved to open the door for its members to propose additional questions in a national referendum when it is held for the charter draft, he said. A meeting to discuss whether the NRC should propose a question will be held tentatively between August 17-21.
If the meeting votes to submit an additional question, members are free to propose any question before deciding which question should be sent to the Cabinet for approval, he added.
However, NRC member Wanchai Sornsiri voiced opposition to the proposal for a question on whether “reforms should be completed in two years before the election” in the referendum as suggested by his NRC colleague Paiboon Nititawan.
Wanchai said the question could cause divisions in society and face opposition from political parties, and the government will eventually lose control and be unable to lead reforms.
“So, why shouldn’t we allow time for reforms to be completed, so that we can start at one and move forward?” Wanchai, who suggested the NRC to shoot down the drafted charter to pave the way for reforms to be completed before election, said. 
He said it was necessary that the Prayut government stay on to move reforms forward. He also suggested that the government set a clear, strict timeline on reforms “and not do things offhand like they’re now doing”.
He claimed the number of NRC members who could dvote for and against the draft was quite close.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that the proposal to have Prayut’s government continue for another two years to reform the country before calling an election would create national division.
Thai society would find it acceptable if the PM or the junta announces what reform platforms they wanted to achieve, such as police reform, and if they cannot achieve the objectives within the timeframe for any reason, they might reschedule the road map, he said. 
Asked if the rejection of the new constitution would perpetuate his premiership, Prayut said “why do they need to extend the time for me. If the new charter gets approval, I will go on time. I have always said I don’t need to stay longer. I will go when I finish my work.”