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Burning issue

Ruling won't curb bitter political divide

Anxiety over the fate of the charter amendment bill and its sponsors has been ramped up by the Constitution Court picking Friday the 13th to hand down its momentous ruling on the case.

The anti- and pro-amendment camps will submit their written closing statements tomorrow - two days ahead of the verdict reading.

However, the outcome of the judicial review will, unfortunately, have little bearing on the political polarisation over the charter change. The judgement is expected to address legal aspects of the bill and not political implications.

The opposing camps are gearing up to fortify their fight. The judicial decision will, at best, shed light on the extent to which charter changes are permitted.

This will please no one, however, because the anti-amendment camp will still aim to block Pheu Thai Party at every step of the way while the pro-amendment camp will not stop short of promulgating a new charter.

Some tough issues are looming and will dominate the political landscape until all sides can mend fences and work out a compromise on the political system.

So long as the rival camps are determined to have their own way regardless of judicial decisions, political volatility will remain and grow worse.

Should the verdict favour the anti-amendment camp, the push for charter change will just change tack to overcome conformity issues.

If the verdict allows amendment of the charter, opponents will continue to sway sentiment in a bid to derail the changes as much as possible.

With both camps trying to outwit each other by manipulating the rulebook, the country will likely be engulfed in fractious politics for the foreseeable future.

Following the verdict on Friday the 13th, the pro-amendment camp will likely have to fine-tune its push for charter change.

Emerging scenarios range from holding a referendum before forming the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA), to kick-start the CDA with a limited mandate in order to comply with constitutional issues, to revise certain draft provisions before the bill's final passage, or to rewrite the bill before a new round of legislative deliberation.

The anti-amendment camp will also adjust its tactics to counter the proponents. The opponents are expected to cite judicial and legislative procedures in order to force the government to yield and abandon, or at least minimise, any rewrite of the charter.

Bickering between the two camps will reach a crescendo in the lead-up to the referendum, which could come either before or at the conclusion of charter rewriting.

Even if the high court dismisses the case as lacking merit for judicial review, or if there is a four-to-four deadlock by the eight justices in forming a verdict, the camps will merely continue to fight in the court of public opinion.

The pro-amendment camp will try to fan anti-coup sentiment to enhance their mandate to overhaul the charter.

While the anti-amendment camp will counter by attacking the ulterior motive - trampling on the rule of law in order to "rescue" fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Come rain or shine, the camps will keep on settling old scores with reckless disregard for the damage inflicted on the country.


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