Charter bill clears final hurdle

Charter bill clears final hurdle

The coalition government's charter amendment bill sailed through its third reading during a joint sitting of parliament yesterday with the requisite support of more than one-third of senators.

Under the bill, the previous two-ballot voting system would be reinstated with a new calculation method for the distribution of list-MPs implemented, while the number of constituency MPs would be raised from 350 to 400 and that of list-MPs lowered to 100 from 150.

In the vote which took about two hours, a total of 472 lawmakers -- 323 MPs and 149 senators -- voted in favour of the bill. It met the required support of at least one-third of senators, or 84, and at least 20% of opposition MPs, or 43.

Thirty-three lawmakers -- 23 MPs and 10 senators -- voted against it while 127 MPs and 66 senators abstained.

MPs from the Palang Pracharath Party, Pheu Thai Party and Democrat Party voted in support of the bill while Bhumjaithai, the Move Forward Party and some micro-parties abstained.

The chiefs of the three armed forces, who are also senators, did not take part in the vote while senator Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, younger brother of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha voted for the change.

Those who rejected the bill were MPs from the Seri Ruam Thai Party, Action Coalition for Thailand Party and those in other small-sized parties. Among the senators who voted against the bill were Gen Somjate Boonthanom, Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathaworn, Poldej Pinpratheep, and Seree Suwanpanont.

In the run-up to the vote, the fate of the bill had been uncertain, with support from senators liable to go either way.

The bill will be forwarded for royal endorsement after a 15-day wait period.

Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit said the party would set up a panel to work on an organic law on the new election system and that the Democrats would work closely with the MPs and senators in pushing for the next step.

He said the organic bill on the election system, which must be in accordance with the charter, would address in detail candidacy registration, voting method and vote counting among others.

Mr Jurin thanked parliament for its cooperation in seeing the bill, which was sponsored by the Democrat Party, through. He expressed confidence that the change would strengthen the country's political system.

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