Reform body condemns single ballots, plus other key charter features

national February 09, 2016 01:00


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THE National Reform Steering Assembly’s (NSRA) political reform committee yesterday hit out at the proposed single-ballot system, saying it would worsen vote-buying and prevent people from voting as they would like.

The committee also said that the new method proposed for selecting senators, plus the idea of listing candidates to be prime minister, would not work. And difficult charter amendments would cause another deadlock that would result in the latest charter draft being torn up after a future coup.
The NSRA was scheduled yesterday to comment to the Constitution Drafting Commission about the initial charter draft released last week. A number of political reform committee members took turns discussing its keys issues and agreed that the newly proposed electoral system — Mixed Member Apportionment (MMA) — was a weakness.
Seri Suwanpanon, the committee chairman, expressed concern that such an electoral method would not reflect the wishes of voters.
“They might prefer constituency and party-list candidates from different parties. Thus, forcing them to cross one mark and give their votes to both the party and the constituency candidates would not be fair,” he said.
He suggested that the two-ballot system be adopted with larger constituency areas. Voters’ intentions would be reflected and most votes meaningful – as the CDC had wanted them to be.
Wanchai Sornsiri, a veteran parliamentarian and a member of the committee, also said the MMA system was not fair. He gave it the title of “one for three” as one cross would determine all constituency winning candidates, the party’s popularity, and the candidates to be prime minister.
He also said the system would worsen the vote-buying problem. As a one- ballot system could dictate the fate of parties, they were very likely to want to invest in buying votes, Wanchai said.
Wittaya Kaewparadai, a former Democrat Party man and member of the committee, agreed on the vote buying issue, suggesting that the same method which marked one province as one constituency, as stipulated in the 1997 Constitution, could be adopted.
Another committee member Kamnoon Sidhisamarn, a former charter writer, also opposed the MMA system, saying it was not fair for small parties, which might not be able to field constituency candidates and could lose the right to any seat in the Lower House.
The political reform committee was critical of the “cross-election” of senators as well, fearing a “bloc vote” could make the process unfair.
Seri said that if senators really came to power through such an “unjust” way, their qualifications could not be guaranteed. He proposed that senators be chosen by a credible selection committee.
Wanchai agreed, but said the selection panel should be recruited intensively. It should also keep documents that noted the reasons for senators being selected.
Members also asked that drafters to consider dropping the idea to list candidates to be prime minister.
Kamnoon said this was unnecessary. Parties usually encouraged their leaders to take the top government job, anyway.
Another hot issue concerning the new draft was how amending the constitution had been made very difficult. A change had to be approved by at least 10 per cent of MPs of each party, and some points also required community approval in a referendum.
Chairman of the political reform panel said such a stipulation would make the constitution itself a source of conflict and could potentially lead to another charter being torn down.
Nikron Chamnong, a veteran politician and a member of the political reform panel, agreed, saying that things changed as time went by. The constitution should not be too tight and should have room for amendment in case situations changed. 

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