Free vote expected on party-list MPs

Free vote expected on party-list MPs

Lawmakers still split on thorny issue

No resolution has been reached by the government whip on how coalition lawmakers will vote on the method for calculating party-list seats, suggesting a free vote may be on the cards, according to the government whip.

However, a number of prominent MPs and senators have warned this could trigger an unconstitutional result.

The question splitting lawmakers is whether 100 or 500 should be used to calculate the number of list MPs in the next polls.

The figure 100 derives from the total number of party-list MPs while 500 would include all of the constituency MPs as well. Under the amended constitution, there would be 400 constituency MPs in the Lower House, up from the current 350, and 100 party-list MPs, down from 150, in the next poll.

While legal experts and some MPs and senators argue against adopting the larger number, smaller parties and a growing number of legislators have stood firm that this should be used.

Small parties would find it easier to win a list seat using that method. Based on voting figures in the 2019 general election, parties would have needed around 70,000 votes to win a list seat under that model.

However, if 100 were used instead, a party would have had to capture at least 350,000 votes

The main opposition Pheu Thai Party has been a staunch supporter of the smaller number as it is confident of capturing many of the 100 seats up for grabs in the party-list system.

Other large parties including the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and coalition member the Democrat Party are also backing the use of 100 seats.

But it remains unknown how individual government MPs will vote on the list calculation, which is contained in the organic bill on the election of MPs.

Chief government whip Nirote Sunthornlekha said opting for either 100 or 500 would be a matter of personal choice for lawmakers.

"The government whip has made no resolution that will govern how they vote," he said.

He insisted the PPRP had no problem with using either number, and added he was confident the ruling party would return as the main government party after the next election.

The Democrat Party remained heavily divided on the issue yesterday but settled for a free vote among its MPs.

The party MPs met at parliament but were split as they claimed that voting for either number could potentially result in a constitutional violation.

Boonthida Nan Somchai, a party MP for Ubon Ratchathani, said if the MPs could not agree they should consent to a free vote.

Critics say adopting 500 would give small parties a greater chance of squeezing their way into parliament.

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