Senate ex-speaker suggests holding referendum
Former Senate speaker Ukrit Mongkolnavin yesterday suggested that a public referendum be held to determine whether a new constitution should be written, in order to avoid renewed political conflict.Ukrit, who was Parliament president ex-officio and is now chairman of the government-appointed Independent National Rule of Law Commission, expressed concern that if Parliament voted to accept the charter amendment on its third and final reading, the country could plunge into turmoil.
He suggested that lawmakers opt to amend the Constitution in its entirety if they get public support through a referendum.
A legal expert, Ukrit also said a way out of the current political impasse is to solve the problem without prejudice and with optimism, upholding the country's interests. He suggested that lawmakers draft a new constitution modelled after the 1974 constitution.
Ukrit opposed the proposal to dissolve the Constitution Court. However, he suggested that the court come under the jurisdiction of one of the sovereign branches.
He made the comment following the Nititrat group's call to dissolve the Constitution Court. The group argued that the court, which was formed as an independent agency, is not linked to people power, and its ruling on the charter amendment went beyond its jurisdiction and was unconstitutional.
Responding to former PM Thaksin Shinawatra's order to the Pheu Thai Party not to rewrite the entire Constitution, Opposition Democrat Party chief Abhisit Vejjajiva said he was entitled to his opinion. He said the purpose of the charter amendment is to reform politics. He said he is totally against the move to amend Article 309 of the Constitution to help Thaksin.
He said he believed the Constitution Court's verdict would be wrongly interpreted in favour of self-interest.
Parliament secretary-general Pitoon Pumhiran said the Pheu Thai Party's proposal to amend the Constitution in whole is permissible as long as Article 291 of the Constitution was not voted on in its third reading.
Pheu Thai Party Chiang Rai MP said he disagreed with the proposal to amend Article 165 (2) of the Constitution, saying there was no need to fear that voter turnout would be less than half of total eligible voters in case a public referendum is held.
"To change the law on the number of voters in the public referendum is wrong from the start and the party will be condemned for amending the law. We have 46 million eligible voters. For any change to the law, we must have at least 23 million people support the move,'' he said.
Meanwhile, the Pheu Thai Party's strategy team failed to resolve whether the party should support the move to vote on the charter amendment at the third reading. Some party MPs believe calling a vote on the third reading will run the risk of the charter amendment being shelved by the Constitution Court. Others believe the move can unlock the political impasse and allow the charter amendment to be carried out.