Race for charter study panel chairmanship heats up

Race for charter study panel chairmanship heats up

Democrats, Pheu Thai to meet internally to discuss nominations

Pokin Polakun of the Pheu Thai Party (centre) and Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party (right) are among contenders to head a special House committee to study charter amendments. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Pokin Polakun of the Pheu Thai Party (centre) and Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party (right) are among contenders to head a special House committee to study charter amendments. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Pheu Thai Party strategist Pokin Polakul is tipped to be nominated by the opposition bloc as head of a special House committee to study charter amendments.

Cholnan Srikaew, the opposition whip and Pheu Thai MP for Nan, said on Monday the seven-party opposition will meet on Tuesday to discuss who they will nominate as panel chairman, with Mr Pokin being touted as a potential candidate.

Mr Cholnan said he can personally vouch that Mr Pokin, a former parliament president, is fit for chairmanship.

He also noted that the position is key to the charter amendment's success.

"If we have a non-partisan chairman who doesn't want to amend the charter, it will be difficult to succeed in the task. This position is very important because he or she will have the ability to steer the entire committee," he said, referring to an ongoing debate on whether or not the chairman should be politically impartial.

He said the study panel is likely to come up with four proposals on how to approach the amendments, and that the panel should not take no longer than 90 days to complete its task.

According to Mr Cholnan, one of the four proposals involves seeking amendments to Section 256 of the charter, along with setting up a new constitution drafting committee to write an entirely new constitution — an approach supported by opposition parties. 

Under Section 256 of the current charter, a constitutional amendment requires the support of at least one-third of all 250 senators, or 84. This requirement is seen as a major hurdle for any attempts to revise the constitution.

The three other proposals concern amendments to Section 256 to make it easier to push for a charter revision, changes to the electorate system, and a review of Section 279 of the current constitution, which endorses orders issued by the now-dissolved National Council for Peace and Order.

Deputy Democrat Party leader Ongart Khlampaiboon said that the party is likely to stand by its decision to nominate former leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as the head of the charter amendment study panel.

"That said, the issue will be settled by a discussed among government whips," he noted.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam distanced the government from the matter and declined to comment on reports that the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) will nominate Paiboon Nititawan as the head of the committee.

Mr Wissanu said that "one or two people" have been nominated as committee members, but stopped short of commenting further, saying that he has nothing to do with the appointment of the chairman, as the matter will be decided by the committee's members.

The House panel tasked with studying charter amendments comprises of 49 members — with 18 members representing the government coalition, 19 from the opposition, and 12 from the cabinet.


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