Meechai says senator bill will need rewrite

Meechai says senator bill will need rewrite

Chief constitution writer Meechai Ruchupan says he may have to start over from scratch on a vital pre-election law on the selection of senators. He claims this will not affect the current timetable calling for an election in early 2019.
Chief constitution writer Meechai Ruchupan says he may have to start over from scratch on a vital pre-election law on the selection of senators. He claims this will not affect the current timetable calling for an election in early 2019.

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan says the CDC will almost certainly rewrite the whole bill on the selection of senators if the Constitutional Court rules Wednesday that it violates the 2017 charter.

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA), which had voted to pass the bill, decided to seek the court ruling following a warning by Mr Meechai that certain clauses, which involve the selection of different types of Senate candidates, may be unconstitutional.

In the view of Mr Meechai, this is the core of the bill, so if it is problematic, the whole law is undermined.

"If the court rules they [the provisional clauses] break the charter, the whole bill will be revoked and we will have to start over and draft a new one," Mr Meechai said.

The CDC was tasked with drafting the charter's organic bill on the selection of senators before forwarding it for consideration by the NLA. Legislators made some changes to provisional clauses before voting to approve the bill in early March.

The debatable clauses allow Senate candidates to field themselves and organisations to field candidates for selection and demand intra-group selection among candidates instead of cross-group voting.

This raised questions over whether the selection process contravenes Section 107 of the charter which stipulates that senators must be installed from selections made by and among candidates.

If the Constitutional Court rules the process is unconstitutional, the clauses will no longer be usable. If so, there will be "no law to support the charter", Mr Meechai said.

This would prompt the charter drafters to rewrite the whole bill. However, Mr Meechai said this should not be difficult work.

"The CDC will meet one or two times to do the job because only a small part needs rewriting," Mr Meechai said, adding that most of the content would still be based on the original version.

"We should finish the work in one or two weeks."

"This rewrite will not affect the roadmap to an election," the CDC chairman insisted.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has announced Thailand will have a general election next February.

Meanwhile, legal expert and adviser to the CDC, Jade Donavanik, disagrees with Mr Meechai and does not think the whole bill will have to be revoked.

"Most parts of the bill have no problems and match the charter," he said. "Only small changes by the NLA are needed."

"I'll be very surprised if the court revokes the whole bill," Mr Jade added.

Also on Wednesday, the court will also deliberate two other bills including one regulating the election of MPs, but has not set a date to hand down a ruling.

It has been asked to rule on the validity of two clauses.

One concerns election staff or other individuals being allowed to help disabled people cast their vote, which could conflict with the stipulation that ballots must be cast in secret.

The other prohibits people who fail to vote in elections without good reason from being appointed as political office holders.


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