Move Forward disputes referendum rules

Move Forward disputes referendum rules

Requirement for ‘double majority’ could torpedo any hope of amending constitution

(Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
(Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The Move Forward Party (MFP) has proposed a change in the criteria for a referendum on the constitution, saying the current requirement allows those who disagree with a proposed rewrite to easily thwart its adoption.

Move Forward MP Parit Wacharasindhu said the existing “double majority” requirement would mean that those who disagreed with amending the charter drawn up by the prevous military regime would simply stay home, rather than taking part in a referendum to vote against it.

He was referring to Section 13 of the Referendum Act which requires two specific conditions be met before a referendum result can be considered binding. First, more than 50% of eligible voters must have participated in the vote, and then the majority of those who cast votes must approve it.

“If people disagree with the questions [posed in the referendum], instead of voting against them, they can choose to stay home. If the participation requirement fails, the referendum is rejected,” he said.

Mr Parit said the requirement for majority participation should be removed, noting that it did not apply in the previous charter referendums in 2007 and 2017.

However, if both participation and approval requirements are maintained, for a referendum to pass, the number of voters who participate in the referendum and who vote in favour should exceed 25%.

If the government and the opposition co-proposed amendments to Section 13, he said, they could be passed by parliament before the referendum study is completed.

Pheu Thai list-MP Chaturon Chaisang also expressed concern over the double majority requirement. If a bill was rejected in a referendum, it could lead to people concluding that the public did not want any changes, he wrote on Facebook.

“We must cover all bases — how many rounds of votes are needed, how the questions are phrased and if the Referendum Act should be amended first,” he wrote, adding that he and some party MPs would submit a number of proposed changes to the House of Representatives for deliberation when parliament reopens.

Mr Chaturon, who recently oversaw a sub-committee tasked with gathering public opinion, also highlighted a number of concerns raised during the session.

He said many of those questioned pointed out that even if a bill received public endorsement, that did not guarantee its passage into Thai law.

In order to rewrite the entire charter, Section 256 must first be amended and if that amendment is rejected by parliament, the whole process would stall indefinitely, he noted.

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