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Cabinet approves decree for short Senate session

Govt agrees to 8-day Upper House meeting that could impeach former speaker and elect a new one

The government yesterday finally relented to a request by the Senate to convene an extraordinary parliamentary session that might take up the impeachment of ex-speaker Nikom Wairatpanij and select a new speaker.

It has been proposed that the Senate speaker act as Parliament president to nominate a new prime minister for royal endorsement if incumbent Yingluck Shinawatra is ordered by a court to step down.

The Cabinet approved a draft royal decree for the special session from Friday until May 10.

The meeting is needed to endorse a new member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission to replace Jaided Pornchaiya, who has retired, and new judges for the Administrative Court, Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said.

He said Deputy Senate Speaker Surachai Liangboonlertchai, who is acting speaker, did not mention anything about impeaching the former speaker in his request early this month for the extraordinary parliamentary session.

Nikom is accused of unlawfully chairing a parliamentary meeting to amend the Constitution's provisions on composition of the Senate.

Under Article 132 of the Constitution, the Senate cannot hold a session during a House recess unless there are pressing tasks such as the appointment of members for independent organisation.

Surachai yesterday expressed concern that the parliamentary meeting would be too short to work efficiently. The upper chamber would have to complete two urgent tasks - endorsing NACC member Supa Piyajitti and Administrative Court judges - but a committee would have to be set up to scrutinise Supa's qualifications and the whole process would take time.

Surachai said he would consult with the Senate's legal experts and other units of Parliament on what to do during this brief sitting given by the Cabinet.

New speaker may be selected

The Senate would also see if a new speaker and deputy speakers could be selected during this extraordinary session, he said.

The development at the Upper House came as efforts continued to help break the political deadlock. Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva carried on with his mission to gather ideas from various sides in a bid to resolve the conflict.

Meanwhile, Puchong Nutrawong, secretary-general of the Election Commission, said the EC would announce its decision today on endorsing the 15 remaining senators-elect.

The 30-day deadline to endorse all winners from the election is today. Although the EC still has 74 election complaints to work through, it has to announce the official poll results for the remaining 15 provinces.

The investigation into the complaints must be completed within one year but he said the EC would try to wrap up the probes within three months of senators being endorsed.

The EC would first endorse the 15 remaining senators-elect then continue considering the complaints against them within the one-year timeframe. He said the EC could ask the Criminal Court to disqualify them later if it finds that they have violated election laws.

In a related development, the ruling Pheu Thai Party issued a six-point call for the next general election to be held as soon as possible. It also urged all groups involved in the political conflict to refrain from violence.

However, the pro-government United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship said it would go ahead with its plan to stage a mass rally on May 6 aimed at "protecting the government".

UDD leader Nattawut Saikuar, who is also deputy commerce minister, said the red shirts were prepared to rally for one month.


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