CDC agrees to indirect Senate pick
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CDC agrees to indirect Senate pick

Final charter draft limits candidate pool

File photo of the Senate chamber by Phrakrit Juntawong
File photo of the Senate chamber by Phrakrit Juntawong

The next Senate will be indirectly elected from pools of candidates nominated by ex-politicians, the National People's Assembly and other groups, under a section of the charter draft finalised Wednesday by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC).

CDC spokesman Gen Lertrat Ratanavanich said there will be 200 senators serving six-year terms, which they will not be allowed to serve back-to-back.

Senators will be selected from among five categories of people: former prime ministers, former Supreme Court presidents and former parliament presidents; former high-ranking state officials such as military leaders and permanent secreta­ries; heads of legally registered professional organisations; people's organisations such as labour unions, agricultural co-operatives and academics; and other groups such as lawyers, environmental activists, poverty networks and healthcare experts.

Senators from the first four groups will be selected from among themselves, while those from the fifth will be nominated by a screening committee and selected by the National People's Assembly and executives and members of local administrative bodies.

CDC deputy chairman Manich Suksomchitra said media professional groups are not included in the Senate selection process. They are required by their profession to maintain independence and impartiality.

Gen Lertrat said the CDC has also approved the mixed member proportional (MMP) representation system with the "open list". The number of MPs is set at 450-470. Of these, 250 will come from the constituency system and the 200 others from the party-list system.

Because the party-list system is divided into six regions, political parties and groups will be able to propose between 33-35 party-list candidates per region, he said.

Voters can also elect one more specific candidate from the list, apart from their party-list voting.

Pheu Thai member Samart Kaewmeechai warned that MMP will weaken the main political parties and lead to smaller parties which are prone to switch political allegiance and destabilise coalition governments.

He expressed concerns that if a government lacks stability, it is difficult to win confidence from investors. The MMP system, he said, is not deemed good for national development.

The CDC has also endorsed a proposal that the House of Representatives be dissolved if the opposition wins a no-confidence debate against the entire cabinet.

CDC spokesman Kamnoon Sidhisamarn said the proposal was out of concern for the stability of a future government. With the introduction of the MMP system, a future government is likely to be formed by small parties, which could undermine its stability.

In the 2007 charter, the opposition is required to nominate a prime minister candidate when it seeks to convene a no-confidence debate.

"A censure debate can't do anything to the government under the 2007 charter. The government is very strong. But the new electoral system is likely to bring us a coalition government, so we have to find a mechanism to make sure government stability will not be easily challenged," he said.

According to Mr Kamnoon, the opposition will have to come up with solid information when it seeks a censure debate against the government; otherwise it can opt for other channels, such as a censure debate against an individual cabinet minister.

The CDC has also agreed to include in the charter a clause banning politicians found guilty of electoral fraud or impeached by parliament from politics for life.

This is in line with Section 35 (4) of the interim charter, which calls for the new charter to include efficient mechanisms to prevent people found by legal order, such as by the Election Commission, guilty of corruption or election violations from holding future political positions.

Mr Kamnoon said the ban on those found guilty of cheating in elections is unlikely to affect the former executives of the dissolved political parties, such as the Thai Rak Thai and People Power parties.

CDC chairman Borwornsak Uwanno also said a lifetime ban against politicians found guilty of election fraud is unlikely to apply to the former executives of the dissolved parties.

These former executives were automatically banned as a result of their parties being disbanded by the Constitutional Court.

The lifetime ban drew wide debate among CDC members, some of whom were concerned it would spark fresh confrontation and unrest led by supporters of politicians already banned by Constitutional Court rulings.

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