Senator breaks ranks on PM vote

Senator breaks ranks on PM vote

Wanchai backs removing power to select premier

Senator Wanchai Sornsiri on Saturday expressed support for moves to strip the Senate's power to take part in the selection of a prime minister.

He was referring to a parliamentary session which will be held on Wednesday and Thursday to deliberate charter amendment bills. ''I reiterate my stance for moves to switch off the Senate's power in the selection of a prime minister regardless of other senators' opinions,'' he said. Mr Wanchai, who is in a minority among his colleagues in backing moves to trim the Senate's own powers, said the power to choose a prime minister actually rests with MPs and parties.

Even though the Senate is allowed to join MPs in electing a prime minister under Section 272 of the constitution, the Senate will vote for a prime ministerial candidate who has the backing of a majority of MPs anyway, he said.

''If the Senate votes for someone who does not have the support of a House majority, that means the Senate goes against public sentiment. That government (with the person whom the Senate voted as prime minister in defiance of MPs) would last no more than three months," Mr Wanchai said.

He said Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha became prime minister because several coalition parties voted him into office and the Senate voted for him accordingly. ''I believe if parties gather more than half the required votes to support a candidate, no senators will dare oppose such a public mandate,'' Mr Wanchai said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Pheu Thai Party leader Chusak Sirinil yesterday opposed a decision by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai to refuse to put on parliament's agenda a charter amendment bill proposed by the opposition. This would revise Section 256 paving the way for the setting up of a charter drafting assembly.

Earlier, a committee providing recommendations for the House Speaker agreed the bill would be tantamount to abrogating the constitution.

The bill did not seek to amend the charter section-by-section and could go against a Constitutional Court ruling, he said. The court ruled that an amendment to Section 256 would involve replacing the charter, in which case a referendum before and after the rewrite would be required.

Mr Chusak said the committee only cited certain parts of the court's ruling. He insisted the court did not prohibit a process to draw up a new charter. Rather, it said the people must be allowed to decide in a referendum first whether they wanted a new one.

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