Referendum act needs amending, says scholar

Referendum act needs amending, says scholar

A political science scholar on Wednesday pointed to the need to first amend the 2021 Referendum Act before moving on to amending the 2017 constitution, saying he was concerned the referendum law's complicated requirements might lead to the charter-rewriting bid failing right from the start.

If any opponents of the government's charter amendment process only campaign for their supporters to boycott the referendum and the turnout becomes less than half of the number of eligible voters, the referendum will collapse, said Yuttaporn Issarachai, a political science lecturer at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.

He is also a member of the government committee drafting a new guideline on conducting a referendum to gauge public opinion to find an ideal solution to political conflicts associated with the planned rewriting of the charter.

The Constitutional Court has ruled the referendum is required to be conducted twice to ensure the new charter is acceptable to all sides, in terms of not only its legitimacy but also its potential to bring about political reconciliation, he said.

In his opinion, the two-factor requirement for passing the referendum should be relaxed and changed so that only a majority of votes is required to approve the referendum's result, not necessarily required to also be more than half of the eligible voters and the number of voters who actually take part in the referendum, he said.

Senator Wanchai Sornsiri, also chairman of the Senate's committee on political development and public participation, meanwhile, insisted he saw a need to change the referendum law.

"If the referendum turnout is only 20% or 30%, doesn't it clearly show the referendum isn't approved of by most people?" he asked.

Worse still, if the referendum law has to be amended first, the government's charter amendment might not be completed before the government's four-year term ends, said the senator.

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai, on the other hand, said that he was confident the government's main charter amendment committee would be able to successfully conclude the charter amendment referendum by the end of this year, then forward the conclusion to the cabinet the following year and ultimately get the charter amendment completed within the government's four-year term.

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