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Opposition to ask top court to rule on charter amendments

Opposition whips agreed at a meeting yesterday to ask the Constitutional Court next week for a ruling on whether proposed changes to the charter about the election of senators, now before Parliament, violate the Constitution.

The opposition will also seek a court injunction to halt voting in the final parliamentary reading of the amendment bill, according to opposition chief whip Jurin Laksanawisit, who chaired yesterday's meeting. Voting has been scheduled for September 27.

Jurin said the court would be asked to rule on whether the charter amendment process was tantamount to violating Article 68 of the Constitution. The clause states: "No person shall exercise the rights and liberties prescribed in the Constitution to overthrow a democratic regime with the King as head of state or to acquire the power to rule the country by means that are not in accordance with the modes provided in this Constitution."

The chief opposition whip said the ongoing constitutional amendment process was "unlawful in many ways". For instance, he said, there was a conflict of interest as the amendment allowed incumbent senators to contest the next Senate election without taking a two-year break as required in the original clause.

The amendment lifting a ban against relatives of incumbent MPs and holders of political offices becoming senators would also give them an advantage over others.

He said the unusually hasty deliberation on the matter by Parliament had led to many mistakes in the amendment. "The goal is to only allow incumbent senators to take part in the next Senate election in March next year," he added.

Jurin said opposition whips would also consider filing for the impeachment of House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranont.

Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij yesterday dismissed the opposition's moves to take the matter to court, saying if the court granted an injunction he would ask the Parliament president to call a joint House-Senate meeting to reaffirm Parliament's right to amend the Constitution.

The Election Commission, meanwhile, plans to start drafting an organic law for Senate elections in compliance with the charter amendment, after it passes a final reading in Parliament. Election commissioner Prapun Naigowit said yesterday that he expected the new law to be completed before the next Senate election.


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