MP election bill fails to meet 180-day deadline due to lack of quorum
The organic law on MP elections lapsed as it failed to meet the 180-day deadline on Monday due to a lack of quorum in Parliament yet again.
Parliament President Chuan Leekpai, who is also House speaker, called a special meeting on Monday for the second and third reading in a last-ditch effort to save the vetted bill. This was after Parliament failed to achieve a quorum for the bill’s reading last Wednesday.
About an hour after the meeting started on Monday morning, some 365 parliamentarians recorded their attendance, reaching the quorum of 364. There were 165 senators and 200 MPs in the chamber.
When opening the meeting, Chuan reminded lawmakers that the joint sitting had collapsed due to a lack of quorum last week. He then checked the quorum again for passing Section 24/1 of the bill in the second reading.
After waiting half an hour for lawmakers to confirm their attendance before votes could be cast, Chuan reminded them not to blame one another and that a walkout or boycott is the right of each parliamentarian.
While waiting for the quorum to be met, Pheu Thai MP Julaphan Amornvwiwat urged Chuan to declare the meeting collapsed as a lack of quorum was imminent.
Several senators, meanwhile, called on Chuan to make a roll call to check the quorum, a suggestion he rejected.
Eventually, Chuan declared the meeting collapsed.
The main opposition Pheu Thai Party announced on Sunday that it would boycott the meeting because it does not want this “unconstitutional” bill to be passed.
The Constitution’s Article Section 132(1) requires a bill to be passed within 180 days and the deadline for this bill was on Monday.
With this version lapsing, the original version of the bill that was drafted by the Election Commission and sponsored by the Cabinet will be sent back to Parliament for reaffirmation after five days.
The bone of contention in this bill is the way party-list House seats will be calculated. The original bill proposed that the number of all party-list MP votes be divided by 100 for the allocation of MP seats.
However, while vetting the bill, the coalition and senators flexed their majority muscle and changed the divisor to 500, which covers both constituency and party-list MPs.
Micro-parties prefer the 500 divisor because it will ensure they win at least one House seat. However, large parties, especially the opposition leader Pheu Thai, prefer the 100 divisor because it will help them win a larger share of party-list House seats.
Pheu Thai claims the 500 divisor was introduced to prevent it from winning a landslide victory in the next election, which will be held once the government completes its four-year tenure in March 2023.