Charter bid heads to Senate

Charter bid heads to Senate

A motion calling for a referendum to be held on a charter redraft will be slotted in the Senate meeting agenda on Nov 21, said Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn.

Sen Kamnoon, also a Senate whip, said the whips' meeting agreed it will be treated as an urgent motion.

The Senate is proceeding as dictated by the Referendum Act after the House on Nov 3 voted for the opposition-sponsored motion which seeks a referendum to be held on the drafting of a new constitution, after voting was deferred for more than a month.

The motion was endorsed with 323 MPs voting in support of the referendum and one abstention. It still needs the support of the Senate to materialise.

The motion calls on the government to hold a referendum asking the public if a new constitution should be drawn up by a charter drafting assembly made up of elected representatives to replace the current charter.

It also suggests the referendum be held on the same day as the next general election, which has been tentatively set for May 7 by the Election Commission (EC).

The House was supposed to vote on the motion on Sept 15 but the session collapsed due to the lack of a quorum.

Sen Kamnoon said there is no guarantee the cabinet, which has a role to play in the process of launching a referendum, will agree, even if the motion is approved by both Houses.

In practice, the cabinet advises the EC on referendum affairs. There could be legal hurdles in scheduling the elections on the same day as the referendum -- apparently as a cost-saving measure -- due to the two events being governed by different laws.

The poll and referendum supervisors will be different sets of officials, Sen Kamnoon said, adding the outcome of the referendum could create an unfair advantage or disadvantage to the winners of the general elections.

Senator Wallop Tangkhananurak, also a Senate whip, said after the referendum motion is put on the agenda, a committee will be set up and spend up to 60 days studying the issue.

In that case, the motion should return to the Senate by January before the term of MPs expires in March. However, the motion could be aborted in the event of a House dissolution, he added.

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