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ANALYSIS

New senators will have some big decisions to make

THE MARCH 30 half-Senate election will be a ballot with huge significance for the Pheu Thai political camp, as the first job for the new senators could be to remove caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from her post in relation to the rice-pledging scheme.

Some 77 Senate seats are up for grabs after the term of the current elected senators ends, while 73 appointed senators are due to end their term in the next three years.

If the new 77 elected senators possess political opinions similar to current conservative appointed senators, the Pheu Thai Party may struggle to maintain their foothold in the Thai political arena.

One possible scenario is the chance that the new senators will decide on an impeachment case against 308 MPs and senators who last year sought to amend the constitution in relation to how senators are elected. Most of the 308 are affiliated with Pheu Thai. Only three of 73 appointed senators sided with the Pheu Thai camp in sponsoring the charter amendment bills.

The March 30 half-Senate election also stands as a testing ground for the two rival camps after weeks of political conflict that has plunged the country into a downward spiral of recession, civil strife and threatens to split the country.

Although the February 2 election has not been completed, it can't fully be used as an indicator on which side eligible voters back as the poll was marred by protests and disruption by the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

The March 30 senate election is unlikely to face the same scenario because the PDRC has no aim to block this ballot - or at least they have not declared such as yet.

Apart from their powerful capacity to remove political office holders from their posts, senators are tasked with appointing and removing members of independent organisations such as the Constitutional Court and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

If any political camp is able to gain control of the Upper House, under the charter it would require votes from three-fifths of the senators to impeach anybody.

In urban areas, factors that help senators win seats vary from past achievements, fame, to their personal calibre. But in rural areas, winning factors continue to be linked with canvassers who are normally local leaders and the same opinion leaders as canvassers for MP candidates.

This means it cannot be free from politics. If Pheu Thai can maintain its political base and backing of local leaders, the party could continue to maintain significant support in the Senate.




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