Senator says opposition bills likely to be voted down

Senator says opposition bills likely to be voted down

Seri Suwannapanont confident most senators won't accept them

Senator Seri Suwannapanont speaks during a joint sitting to vote on the prime minister on June 5 last year. Every single one of the 250 junta-appointed senators, except their president who abstained by custom, voted for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha on that day. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Senator Seri Suwannapanont speaks during a joint sitting to vote on the prime minister on June 5 last year. Every single one of the 250 junta-appointed senators, except their president who abstained by custom, voted for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha on that day. (Bangkok Post file photo)

A senator says he is confident the Senate will vote down all four motions filed by the opposition to pave the way for the writing of a new constitution.

Seri Suwannapanont said on Saturday it was clear the intention behind the four motions was to throw the blame on the 250 senators and make them look bad.

“They must have known we won’t agree with them since the motions are designed to escalate conflicts. They filed them anyway,” he said.

The former lawyer added that many senators had no illusion this was a political game.

“If we bend to their wishes, there will be more troubles since old problems that have already been solved would be revived,” he said.

Mr Seri said that after talks with his friends in the upper house, he found several also disagreed with the opposition’s bills, as well as the proposal to set up a constitution drafting council.

“I personally won’t vote for the motions. This is a time when the country faces multiple crises and time is better spent solving them, not playing politics to topple the government,” he said.

He added he was not against amending the charter but the timing had to be right.

The Senate whip will discuss the motions at a meeting on Monday.

For a charter-amendment bill to pass, votes of at least 84 of 250 senators are required.   

Earlier, a few senators appeared to have been resigned to their fate after heavy criticism that they are the  legacy of a coup — they had been picked by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) — with some publicly saying they agreed with the changes proposed to trim their power.

The Pheu Thai-led six-party opposition on Thursday filed the motions for four bills to amend the charter to Parliament president Chuan Leekpai.

The first bill amends Sections 272 and 159 to bring the power to choose a prime minister back to MPs and prevent non-MPs from becoming PM candidates.

In its version, PM candidates must be MPs on the lists parties submit to the Election Commission before an election. In the event no MP on the lists can be chosen, MPs outside the lists can be proposed and voted on.

Currently, 250 senators sit with 500 MPs to choose a PM from the lists by a majority vote. Outsiders are allowed both on the lists and as a contingency option if no one can be chosen.

The second motion amends Sections 270 and 271 to have MPs, along with senators, follow up on the progress of national reforms and stop bills that involve national reforms.

At present, only senators have a say on national reforms.

The third bill aims to repeal Section 279 that gives a blanket and indefinite amnesty to the NCPO.

The fourth bill involves the electoral system. It proposed that the system under the 1997 charter be used — 500 MPs (400 from constituencies and 100 from party lists); one person is entitled to one vote; and parties entitled to list MPs must have at least 5% of all votes.

Currently, the system is loosely based on mixed-member proportional representation with an unclear calculation formula and a threshold for the votes each party must have in order to qualify for list MPs. The Election Commission's unusual interpretation of this threshold ensured the presence of 10 single-MP parties in the House, almost all of which backed the Palang Pracharath-led government and gave it a slim majority.

Mr Chuan said the four motions would be debated on Sept 23-24, along with two others filed earlier by Pheu Thai and coalition parties, both on the setup of a constitution drafting council.


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