House panel vote 'no sign of rifts'

House panel vote 'no sign of rifts'

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on Wednesday played down speculation about a conflict within government coalition partners following a vote on the chairman of the House committee scrutinising the two organic laws related to the new election system.

Democrat Party deputy leader and Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha was chosen to head the committee, beating Paiboon Nititawan, deputy leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), by just one vote.

Mr Wissanu said the matter was not a conflict although it indicated that something was out of place because the issue of the chairmanship should have been finalised by the coalition partners.

He also pointed out that PPRP list-MP Wichian Chawalit who co-submitted the amendment bills was not on the committee, which suggested the coalition parties did not hold talks on the issue.

Mr Wissanu responded with a "yes" when asked if coalition parties would have to improve their work in parliament, but he declined to say more. 

He was concerned the issue would affect the government stability. However, he did not bring it up with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

The remark was in response to a reporter's question concerning deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's comment on the selection of the committee chairman.

At one point in his Clubhouse session on Tuesday, Thaksin said the vote was Gen Prayut's wake-up call for parliament.

Asked if Gen Prayut discussed government stability with him, Mr Wissanu said the issue was mentioned only in passing and there was no conclusion, he said. 

He refused to answer when asked if the government would be able to complete its four-year term in March next year. Mr Wissanu said people like Deputy Prime Minister and PPRP leader Prawit Wongsuwon might have the answer.

Mr Wissanu also said the scrutiny process of the draft amendments to the two organic laws on political parties and election of MPs must be finished within a 180-day timeframe, or the bills will have to accepted as originally proposed and in their pre-scrutiny versions. 

The proposed amendments to the two organic laws passed their first readings in parliament last week to reflect the constitutional changes that accommodate the reintroduction of the dual-ballot system.

He said it was possible to amend the charter to go back to a single-ballot system. "But I don't know if such an amendment will succeed. And why would we do that when we have just revised it? We might be better off pursuing issues that are more important."

Deputy Democrat Party leader Niphon Bunyamanee said on Wednesday the chairmanship selection would not affect the committee's work and the panel would listen to all suggestions.

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