CDC wants 8-year limit on PM’s tenure

Critics say rule risks leading to instability

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) plans to limit the time a person serves as prime minister to a maximum of eight years, regardless of how many times he or she has been in the post.

The CDC has designed a system where a person can serve as prime minister more than once but the amount of time he or she has been in the post must not exceed a combined period of eight years, according to CDC spokesman Udom Rathamarit.

A person cannot serve as prime minister again for life once the eight years has been reached.

CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan said the restriction was agreed by the committee after it surveyed popular opinion which did not want a prime minister to stay in power for an extended period or amass too much power.

Mr Meechai said some charter writers proposed limiting a prime minister's time in office to a maximum of two full terms. However, the idea was dropped as in practice, a prime minister rarely served a full term of four years as governments in the past collapsed from House dissolutions.

He said the restriction on the length of the prime minister's service had to be worded carefully in the charter and the CDC decided on the maximum combined eight-year limit, regardless of the frequency of service.

Observers, however, pointed to flaws in the combined service limit which could cause political instability.

If a prime minister assumes the post for a second or third time and he or she has only a few years left in the eight-year limit, he or she might have to vacate the prime minister's seat early, raising concerns over political uncertainty and policy disruptions.

The limit would also be counter-productive for a capable prime minister who faces time constraints in completing projects which are beneficial to the country.

The proposal came a day after the CDC reduced the number of prime ministerial candidates each political party is required to unveil before elections from five to three. The parties also cannot have the same candidates on their lists to prevent inter-party collaboration.

The CDC also decided that parties qualified to nominate candidates for prime minister are those with at least 25 MPs.

The committee is now confronted with the question of what to do if no candidate wins an outright majority in parliament to become prime minister after the next general election.

The CDC stipulates that the vote must be held as often as necessary to find a candidate who receives a majority of support. Critics argued this would prolong Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's time as caretaker premier.

Mr Udom said the CDC is working on resolving the issue.

The committee also agreed that cabinet ministers or MPs who commit conflicts of interest by diverting the state budget to projects for vested gains will be sued for damages, with a statute of limitation spanning 50 years.

The long statute ensures that the authorities have sufficient time to bring any ministers or MPs to justice after they have left office.

In the past, former ministers or MPs accused of conflicts of interest in office were spared any financial liability from projects that failed to be fully implemented after the short statute of limitations in their cases expired. The state ended up shouldering any damages incurred from such projects.

The CDC, meanwhile, concluded that there should be a single panel to select members of all independent agencies. It is a departure from the current practice of having a selection panel for each independent agency.

About the author

Writer: Mongkol Bangprapa
Position: Senior reporter covering politics