Senate bows to cronyism
Cronyism and nepotism have finally taken centre stage in Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha's selection of senators, as many critics feared.
Gen Prayut, who also leads the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has picked his brother, cabinet members and current lawmakers to serve in the Upper House, news reports revealed yesterday.
Yesterday, Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, Gen Prayut's younger brother, confirmed to the media that he had resigned from the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to assume a new role as one of the senators.
NLA vice president Peerasak Porjit said yesterday at least 60 people would quit their jobs at the NLA by tomorrow at the latest to meet the deadline by which they can still be eligible to take up posts at the Senate.
More from the NLA are expected to join them. Meanwhile, at least 15 cabinet ministers have tendered their resignations with the same goal in mind.
The full list of 250 senators is due to be submitted to His Majesty the King for royal endorsement on Friday. Many political pundits and other observers expected Gen Prayut's list would be dominated by people from his personal circle and political allies. The latest reports confirm the validity of their prognostications.
The regime-sponsored constitution allows Gen Prayut to handpick all of the senators, who will then serve for a period of five years. They will also be given the unprecedented power of joining the Lower House in voting to choose the next prime minister.
Given that Gen Prayut is vying to return to the post under the banner of the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), it would be hard to imagine a scenario whereby the party fails to secure the support of most if not all of the senators for their star candidate.
The Senate is supposed to be a checks-and-balances mechanism of the government. However, if it is dominated by Gen Prayut's allies, it could either be too friendly or too hostile toward a new government, depending on whether the administration is run by the pro- or anti-regime camp.
If the PPRP manages to form a government with Gen Prayut as prime minister, the Upper House would become merely a rubber stamp when it comes to screening laws and government policies, or scrutinising the government's performance.
The Senate would then function similarly to how the NLA has acted in the five years since the last coup -- serving the agenda of the government without the proper checks on its power.
But if the other camp takes the reins, any moves to reform the police or implement new legislative proposals could be vetoed by the Senate, thus raising questions about its impartiality and supposed objectivity.
In recent years, the NCPO and NLA have decided who should run the country's other checks-and-balances mechanisms -- the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), the Election Commission (EC), the Constitutional Court, the State Audit Office, and the Office of the Auditor General.
These organisations have been too aggressive in taking action against anti-regime camp. They have also done little or nothing in terms of probing allegations against figures within the NCPO or pro-regime parties.
This was evident from the NACC's investigation into allegations of graft involving members of the NCPO and NLA.
With Gen Prayut picking the senators, the body runs the risk of ending up becoming an ineffectual and biased chamber.
Bangkok Post editorial column
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