In a harshly worded verdict, the Constitution Court said the process behind the passing of an amendment to require all senators be elected was badly flawed and the amendment itself was unconstitutional. No punishment was given, however.
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Security was extremely tight at the Constitution Court as opposing groups were expected to come out in large numbers. APICHIT JINAKUL
Supporters gather near the Constitution Court to hear the ruling. THITI WANNAMONTHA
Constitution Court rules amendment calling for elected senate violates constitution
The Constitution Court has just finished reading its verdict on the amendment passed by parliament that would require all senators to be elected. The court decided that the complaints against the amendment had merit and by a 6-3 margin declared that the amendment process was badly flawed, unfair and dishonest and by a narrow 5-4 margin that the content itself went against the current constitution. It did not accept, however, that the wrongdoing required the dissolution of political parties supporting the amendment.
At the outset, the Court disagreed with MPs and senators who asserted it did not have the authority to consider the complaints since it dealt with amending the constitution which is clearly a right of parliament. It did have jurisdiction, the Court said.
Then, using harsh language at times, the Court proceeded to find fault with the amendment process and the content of the amendment itself. First, the documentation submitted in parliament was shoddy and inconsistent with improper changes inserted.
Secondly, the debate was cut short, giving opponents of the draft amendment inadequate time to voice their objections.
Finally, the vote involved blatant cheating, with one MP, seen clearly in video clips, using a stack of parliament IDs cards to vote many times.
As for the content of the amendment, the Court found fault with the lax qualifications required for senatorial candidates, particularly allowing spouses and other family members of MPs to stand for election. This would weaken the independence of the Senate and destroy the system of checks and balances.
The did not, however, agree with the complaintants, that these acts required that the political parties supporting the amendment be dissolved or the politicians voting for them be impeached.
Here is some background on what the court was considering. This was published yesterday, so today is the actual decision day.
What is the Constitution Court deciding tomorrow?
When the Thai Parliament voted to amend the section of the constitution dealing with how senators are chosen, it seemed simple enough and very democratic.
In the future all senators would be elected by ordinary citizen voters. There would no longer be any appointed senators chosen by a committee consisting of judges and high government officials.
The proposed amendment was quickly challenged, however, by groups of opposition Democrats and senators who petitioned the Constitution Court to decide if it was constitutional, i.e., that it followed the rules of the present constitution.
The complaints were varied, but the Court decided to combine them into one case and will announce its ruling tomorrow. This could be a very, very important decision. It could help to calm the current political tensions or it could make them worse.
The Constitution Court has ardent supporters...THITI WANNAMONTHA
...and vocal opponents. APICHART JINAKUL
Let's take a quick look at what the court is considering. Two of the complaints deal with the concept of "checks and balances," first that the Senate limits the power of House through it ability to scrutinise, delay or suggest changes to legislation and, secondly, the parliament as a whole limits the power of the executive branch of government, the prime minister and his/her cabinet.
If the Senate is fully elected, the complaints go, a political party could end up controlling the House, the Senate and the executive branch.
The court will rule on the issue of fairness. Is it fair, for example, to abruptly end the terms of the current appointed senators, but not the elected senators.
Many of the other complaints allege that rules were violated during the consideration of the draft amendment. The court must decide whether the debate was improperly limited and whether the opposition was prevented from fully airing their reservations. And was there cheating during the vote? Did some MPs cast votes for MPs who were not present? And did the House Speaker have the right to propose the amendment draft to His Majesty the King through the prime minister and bypass the Senate?
Finally, the Court will also consider whether the Senate Speaker, an elected senator, acted impartially during the consideration of the amendment.
There has been lots of speculation on how the Court might rule, but we can wait another day to find out.
The ruling Phue Thai party, however, seems in no mood to wait for the verdict. Yesterday, Apiwan Wiriyachai, a member of Pheu Thai's strategic committee, said his party will not accept the Constitution Court' s ruling no matter if it is positive for the party, rejecting the complaints, or negative, agreeing that the constitution was violated or that rules were broken.
The Parliament has the constitutional right to amend the charter and the Court, therefore, has no authority to rule on the case and by doing so it will interfere in the legislative branch, Mr Apiwan said.
One thing is for certain. The Court's ruling tomorrow will be watched closely by groups calling the government's ouster and opposing groups angry at what they see are attempts to illegally remove a democratically-elected government.
Adapted from stories in the Bangkok Post over the past two days.
Learn from listening
Click "play" to listen to Update: Constitution Court says "unconstitutional" and "Download" to keep this file for educational purpose.
abruptly: suddenly and unexpectedly, and often unpleasant - อย่างกะทันหัน
air: to make known - เปิดเผย, ประกาศ
allege: to say that something is true or that someone has done something wrong, even though this has not been proved - กล่าวหา
amendment: a change made to a law or agreement, in this case, to the constitution - การแก้ไขกฎหมาย ในที่นี้หมายถึงการแก้ไขรัฐธรรมนูญ
appointed: officially chosen for a job - ถูกแต่งตั้ง
ardent: very enthusiastic and showing strong feelings about something/somebody - กระตือรือร้น
assert: to state firmly that something is true - ยืนยัน
at the outset: at/from the beginning of something - จากการเริ่มต้น, จากระยะเริ่มแรก
authority: power - อำนาจ
blatant: obvious or open, not hidden โจ่งแจ้ง โอ้อวด อึกทึก - โจ่งแจ้ง โอ้อวด อึกทึก
bypass: to avoid dealing with someone or something - หลีกเลี่ยง
cabinet: the group of government ministers who make and approve government policy - คณะรัฐมนตรี
calm down: to become or make somebody become quiet and more relaxed after strong emotion or excitement - ทำให้สงบ, ทำให้นิ่งเฉย
candidate: a person who is trying to be elected - ผู้สมัครรับเลือกตั้ง
cast vote (ballot): to vote, i.e., to put a marked ballot in a ballot box - ลงคะแนน, หย่อนบัตรเลือกตั้ง, ออกเสียงเลือกตั้ง
certain: sure - แน่นอน
challenge: to question whether something is true, accurate, or legal - คัดค้าน
charter: a constitution - รัฐธรรมนูญ
checks and balances: a system that limits power within a political system, group, or organization in which no single part of it can become too powerful, because it needs the agreement of the other parts for its actions to be legal -
citizen: someone who has the right to live permanently in a particular country - พลเมือง
combine: to mix or be put together - รวมกัน
committee: a group of people who are chosen, usually by a larger group, to make decisions or to deal with a particular subject - คณะกรรมการ
complainant: a person who makes a formal complaint in a court of law - ผู้ร้อง(ทุกข์),โจทก์,ผู้ฟ้องร้อง
complaint: when someone says that something is wrong or not satisfactory - การร้องเรียน
consider: to give careful thought to something before making a decision - พิจารณา
consist of: to be made of or formed from something - ประกอบด้วย
constitution: the set of laws and basic principles that a country in governed by - รัฐธรรมนูญ
Constitution Court: the court that decides whether or not laws follow the constitution - ศาลรัฐธรรมนูญ
constitutional: correct or allowed according to the constitution - ถูกต้องหรืออยู่ในขอบข่ายที่ระบุไว้ในรัฐธรรมนูญ
content: the subject, ideas, or story that a piece of writing, radio or television programme, etc., deals with - เนื้อหา,สาระ
current: of the present time - ปัจจุบัน
debate: a discussion in which people or groups state different opinions about a subject - การอภิปราย, การโต้วาที, การถกเถียง
delay: to make something happen at a later time than originally expected - หน่วง, ซื้อเวลา, ยืดเวลา
dissolution : officially ending a group or organisation - การยุบ
documentation: paperwork; documents used for proving that something is true or correct - งานเอกสาร
draft: not in a final form and likely to be changed - ร่าง
executive branch: the part of the government that has the power and responsibility for the daily working of government agencies - ฝ่ายบริหารของรัฐบาล
fault: something that is wrong or not perfect; something that is wrong with a machine or system that stops it from working correctly - ข้อผิดพลาด, ข้อบกพร่อง
flawed: spoiled by something - มีข้อบกพร่อง
harsh: strict, unkind and often unfair - อย่างรุนแรง
House (of Representatives): the largest part of Congress in the US, or of the Parliament in Australia and Thailand - สภาผู้แทนราษฎร
House Speaker: the person who is in charge of most of the activities of the House of Representatives - ประธานสภาผู้แทนราษฎร
illegally: in a way that is against the law - อย่างผิดกฎหมาย
impartial: fair; not connected to or influenced by one particular person or group - เป็นกลาง ไม่เข้าข้างฝ่ายใด ยุติธรรม
impeach: to formally accuse a public official of a serious crime relating to their job - กล่าวโทษเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐว่าทำผิดศีลธรรมหรือจรรยาบรรณ
improper: not suited or appropriate to the situation - ไม่เหมาะสม ไม่สมควร
inadequate: not enough, or not good enough for a particular purpose - อย่างไม่เพียงพอ
inconsistent: if two statements, etc. are inconsistent, or one is inconsistent with the other, they cannot both be true because they give the facts in a different way; tending to change too often; not staying the same - ซึ่งขัดแย้งกัน, ซึ่งไม่สอดคล้องกัน
independence: freedom from control by another country or organisation - ความเป็นอิสระ
insert: to put something into something else or between two things - ใส่, สอด, สอดใส่
interfere: to deliberately become involved in a situation and try to influence the way that it develops, although you have no right to do this - แทรกแซง
issue: matter; a subject that people discuss or argue about - ประเด็น
judge: someone whose job is to make decisions in a court of law - ตุลาการ, ผู้พิพากษา
jurisdiction: the authority that an official organisation has to make legal decisions about somebody/something - เขตอำนาจตามกฎหมาย
lax: not paying enough attention to rules, or not caring enough about quality or safety - ละเลย
legislation: a law or set of laws suggested by a government and made official by a parliament - กฎหมาย, การออกกฎหมาย
legislative branch: the part of government responsible for creating new laws - สภานิติบัญญัติ
limit: to stop something from increasing beyond a particular amount or level - จำกัด
margin: the number of votes by which a decision is made, e.g. an election, a court ruling, etc. - จำนวนคะแนน
merit: the quality of being good and of deserving praise, reward or admiration - บุญ, คุณความดี, คุณค่า
mood: the way you feel at a particular time - อารมณ์
negative: bad - ที่เป็นด้านลบ
objection: an expression of opposition to or dislike of something or someone - การไม่เห็นด้วย
opposing: working, fighting, etc. against each other - ซึ่งต่อต้าน
opposition: of a political party that is not part of the government or a group which is against the government - ฝ่ายค้าน ผู้ต่อต้าน
ordinary: not unusual or different in any way - ธรรมดา, ปกติ
ouster: forcing someone out of a position of power - ขับออกจากอำนาจ
petition: to ask someone in authority to do something - ยื่นคำร้อง
positive: good - ที่ดี
present: being in a particular place or situation - เข้าร่วม, อยู่
proceed: to carry out an activity - ดำเนินการ
process: a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result - แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
proposed: suggested as an idea for a group to consider - ถูกเสนอ
qualifications: the abilities, qualities, degrees, etc. that you need for a particular job or activity - คุณสมบัติ, คุณวุฒิ
reject: to not accept something - ปฏิเสธ ไม่ยอมรับ
reservations: feeling of doubt about whether something is good or right - ข้อจำกัด
right: something that you are morally or legally allowed to do or have - สิทธิ
ruling: having control over a particular group, country, etc - ซึ่งมีอำนาจ, ซึ่งปกครอง
ruling : a decision by a court of law - คำตัดสิน คำชี้ขาด
scrutinise: to look at or examine somebody/something carefully - พินิจพิเคราะห์, พิจารณา, ตรวจสอบ
section: any of the parts into which something is divided - ส่วน
security: protection; systems providing for safety from attack, harm, or damage - ระบบรักษาความปลอดภัย
senate speaker: the Senate president; the person who is in charge of political debates in the Senate - ประธานวุฒิสภา
senator: a member of the Senate - วุฒิสมาชิก
shoddy: made or done badly and with not enough care - คุณภาพต่ำ
speculation: ideas or discussion about what might happen or has happened or why something has happened without having complete information - การคาดการณ์
spouse: husband or wife - คู่สมรส
stack: a pile of something, usually neatly arranged - กองที่ซ้อนกัน, กองสิ่งของที่ซ้อนกันอยู่
strategic: carefully planned in order to achieve a particular goal, especially in war, business, or politics - ทางยุทธศาสตร์
submitted: formally given to someone, usually, but not always, so that they can make a decision about it - ยื่น
tensions: the feelings caused by a lack of trust between people, groups or countries who do not agree about something and may attack each other - ความตึงเครียด
term: a period of time a politician, government or other official holds their job - ช่วงเวลาการดำรงตำแหน่งหรืออำนาจ
tight: very strict and firm - เข้มงวด, กวดขัน, เคร่งระเบียบ
varied: of many different types - แตกต่างกัน, ต่างๆ นานา, หลากหลาย
verdict: a decision by a court of law - คำพิพากษา
violate: to do something that is against a law, rule or agreement - ฝ่าฝืน, ละเมิด
vocal: telling people your opinions or protesting about something loudly and with confidence - เฉียบขาด
voice: to express your feelings or opinions - ออกความคิด
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