Time to prove them wrong

Time to prove them wrong

Tomorrow is one of the most important days in Thai political history, as elected members of parliament (MPs) and senators will be attending a joint meeting to vote for the next prime minister. It's a moment when Thailand's commitment to democracy will be tested.

It is understood the members of the two Houses, 250 senators, and 499 elected MPs, will turn up in force. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, will be absent, as he has been suspended from duty following the Constitution Court's order over a media shareholding saga.

Anyone who secures a simple majority of 376 votes will become the country's 30th prime minister. Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha -- with support from the Senate -- is still a strong candidate, though it remains unclear how many votes he will get from the lower House, apart from those in Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and its alliance partners, as bargaining is still going on.

The Senate's vote to pick the next PM is guaranteed in the 2017 Constitution. Out of the 250 senators, the majority -- 194 to be exact -- were handpicked by the regime, while the remaining six spots are reserved for the military's top brass and the national police chief. Fifty senators come from professional and civic groups, but they too, needed to be approved by the regime.

Without the Senate's support, it will be difficult for Gen Prayut to reclaim the premiership, since the pro-junta camp and those in the opposite camp are pretty close in terms of numbers of MPs.

Legally, if Gen Prayut wins the vote, all sides must accept the result as the mechanism is stipulated in the charter that was approved in a referendum. But members of both Houses should take into consideration the spirit of the constitution -- which means, lawmakers should exercise their vote without the influence of extraneous factors which includes the camp they belong to. This is enshrined in a clause that permits MPs to move to a new party within 30 days if they are dismissed because they acted against their parties' resolutions.

This principle should be extended to senators as well, seeing that the 250 senators are an integral part of the government's legislative branch -- which makes up the country's most important foundation, along with the executive branch and the judiciary. As such, senators must show their dignity, and feel free to take up an independent role -- regardless of the selection method.

The Senate should also remember that the 1.3-billion-baht budget for their selection and appointment came from taxpayers, who do not want to see the Senate rubber stamp everything that is brought before parliament. They should differentiate themselves from the National Legislative Assembly, which was a temporary legislative branch set up by the regime and whose job was to comply with the regime's wishes.

Tomorrow will bring about a crucial chance for the Senate to prove that the public's mistrust of the selection process is wrong. They should abstain from voting, and leave the task of picking the next prime minister to MPs who were elected by the people.

If Gen Prayut wins the vote regardless, he could confidently say he has been democratically elected. Anything less would mean our democracy is only a farce.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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