CDC proposal seems to aim at containing political parties' power

national January 05, 2015 01:00

By KRIS BHROMSUTHI
THE NATION

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THE NEW political system proposed by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) seems to have demonstrated a clear intention to create a strong checks-and-balances system that focuses on containing the power and influence of political parties and politicia



The political polarisation and stalemate that has persisted in Thailand for the past decade seems to have led to a mistrust of the so-called “people’s representatives” among the charter drafters.
Hence, they proposed to reduce the power of politicians and political parties, while at the same time increasing the power of other “power groups” through a fully appointed Senate from various groups, including former high-ranking bureaucrats, and military officials. 
An all-appointed Upper House has also been vested with greater power such as to scrutinise and regulate the profiles of ministerial candidates and also the power to propose bills. These new powers are in addition to their already existing power as written in the 2007 constitution, including the power to impeach and to appoint high-ranking officials to independent organisations. 
The key question the public should ask the charter drafters is, how can a Senate with all senators appointed arguably have more, or at least equal power as the representatives of the people in a country considered to be democratic?
This issue has infuriated politicians from both sides of the political divide, as they lined up to voice their opposition to the CDC political system proposal last week, including former MPs Nipit Intarasombat and Udomdet Rattanasatien. 
Nipit said the proposed system would result in administrative conflict between former high-ranking bureaucrats who are appointed to the Senate and elected politicians. Another key casualty from the change in the political system is political parties.
The introduction of the German system and MPP voting means there are likely to be more medium-sized political parties and the gap between the two main parties – Pheu Thai and Democrat – and the other parties, will reduce. This is evident in German politics where there are two major parties and three medium-sized parties. This raises the question whether Thai politics is returning to the years before the 1997 constitution when there were numerous medium-sized parties forming coalition governments without any single major party controlling a significant number of seats. Such a system had resulted in unstable governments with few administrations managing to last their four-year term. 
Another blow to political parties is the new rule that MPs do not have to be members of a political party. Former PM and a veteran politician, Banharn Silapa-archa last week warned that such rules will result in the kind of “political chaos” that had occurred in 1971-1972 where political factions regularly crossed the floor and resulted in frequent dissolution of Parliament.
Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said that the proposal would pave the way for politicians to act irresponsibly towards their parties’ policy promises given to the public. It will open the way for politicians to let themselves be “bought”. Elected politicians will come under the influence of money. When there is only a small margin of difference between the seats held by the government and the opposition, the deciding factor in parliamentary victory will be who has more money, the former premier warned. 
Another pillar of power is also proposed to be created to scrutinise elected politicians and high-ranking public officials – the National Citizen Assembly.
The proposed system demonstrated the charter drafters’ emphasis on a strong checks and balances system that will promote relatively weaker government consisting of a coalition of a large number of medium-sized parties. It has come a long away from the 1997 and 2007 constitutions that promoted strong and stable governments with fewer, but bigger and stronger political parties. 

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