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Forum offers proposal for a directly elected PM

Ex-minister says move would make vote-buying almost impossible

CHANGING THE SYSTEM to provide for a directly appointed prime minister was proposed during the fifth national reform forum held by the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) yesterday in Bangkok's Lumpini Park.

The proposal was made by Thirapat Serirangsan, chairman of the Political Development Council and a former cabinet minister under the junta-appointed Surayud Chulanont administration.

Thirapat was invited by the PDRC to present his proposals and warned that first, people should think through whether they wanted a directly elected prime minister or not. If they did, the idea should be endorsed through a national referendum.

He said a directly elected PM was more suited for Thailand, as Thai people tended to be attached to individuals.

"We should think outside the box and be courageous to seek new ways so we can succeed," said Thirapat. He added there would be less corruption and abuse of power if the prime minister were directly elected and made directly accountable to the people for any wrongdoing through civil litigation. That result would be binding, even after the PM left office.

Thirapat said vote buying would be almost impossible, as it would be too costly to bribe a majority of eligible voters. Also, there should be a system of a run-off between the two top candidates that would make it doubly expensive to buy votes.

The forum heard other ideas, including whether to do away with the Senate altogether, and whether MPs needed to be members of political parties or not. PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban said two or three meetings on the topic were needed.

Suthep spoke at length yesterday about his views on electoral reform. They included the need to make a political party truly a mass party and not a party under the domination of one person and money politics.

"It shouldn't be that anyone with money and status can just form a political party … because this is the root cause of graft and corruption," Suthep said.

Party-list MP system 'abused'

On party-list MPs, Suthep acknowledged that although the system was aimed at attracting qualified people who were not good at campaigning, it ended up being abused to allow dubious figures, such as local mafias, to enter politics.

As for appointed senators, Suthep said some eventually sold themselves to the big political parties.

On the Election Commission, former election commissioner for Bangkok Sakool Zuesongdham proposed a provincial election commission independent of local governors.

He said when they chaired the commission at provincial level on an ex-officio basis, they tended to interfere.

Associate Professor Taweesak Suthakavatin, a vice president for planning at the National Institute of Development Administration, called for a major overhaul of the electoral system.

"We should do a big overhaul in a way that won't tie us down to the old base," he said, adding that there was no actual equality in society. Even in this forum, he only had the right to speak because he was one of the elite among the group.


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