Junta to have full control of selection process; 'outsider' PM made more likely.
THE Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) resolved yesterday to allocate six Senate seats to top brass and to allow all 250 senators to be handpicked by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), in a move seen by some political observers as bowing to almost all of the junta’s requests.
Deliberations running late into Wednesday night and continuing yesterday morning also resulted in making it easier to waive parties’ three-candidate lists for the premiership, with a waiver now requiring fewer votes in a joint parliamentary session.
The senator selection process specified in the draft charter will have two major steps. First, 400 candidates will be chosen by a selection panel, which will be essentially appointed by the NCPO, and another 200 candidates will be recruited by elections taking place at the district and provincial levels, CDC spokesman Udom Rathamarit revealed yesterday.
In the second stage, the NCPO will then pick 194 from the first group and 50 from the second who will be seated as senators.
The military supreme commander, the commanders of the three armed force branches, the defence permanent secretary and the national police chief will also serve concurrently as senators by virtue of their offices, meaning they would have to leave the Senate if they left their positions.
Their successors would also take their seats in the Senate, Udom said.
“Being a part of Parliament would allow these top-brass officials to have a better understanding of issues,” Udom said, in line with remarks made by Deputy Prime Minister and key NCPO member Prawit Wongsuwan, who had said the structure could prevent future coups.
In addition, the NCPO will handpick another 50 candidates from each group as a “reserve” in case there were vacancies in the chamber.
The junta-appointed Senate would have the primary tasks of “safeguarding” the constitution, pushing reform-related laws and overseeing the implementation of reform plans, the CDC spokesman said.
“Every three months, the elected government will have to report the progress of reform implementation to the Senate. However, in the constitutional draft, there is no stipulation about the consequences or penalties that would follow should the government neglect reforms or not report to the Senate,” he said.
The charter drafters resolved that a committee be established to review whether new laws were enacted for reform purposes. The committee would comprise the Senate speaker, the House deputy speaker, the opposition leader, a representative from the Cabinet and the president of the parliamentary standing committee.
Parliamentary procedures in regards to regular legislation should proceed as normal, Udom said. In the case of conflict related to laws involving plans for reform, the two Houses would jointly deliberate on a resolution. The same process would apply when considering controversial legislation, such as the previously proposed general amnesty law that was rejected.
The CDC also resolved to reduce the number of votes required to waive the three-candidate prime minister lists, now requiring three-fifths of the two parliamentary chambers to vote for the waiver instead of the previous two-thirds. The move is seen as making an “outsider” prime minister more likely.
“Easier? Well it would be, but it also depends on the decisions of the houses,” Udom said, regarding the possibility of an “outsider” premier.
The spokesman underlined that such extraordinary rules were in the provisional clauses and only applicable during the five-year transitional period.
The CDC on Wednesday went on retreat to Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin district to finalise the charter draft. The draft is scheduled to be finished and published next week, with a referendum planned for August.