Referendum law tweaked for charter rewrite
text size

Referendum law tweaked for charter rewrite

Electronic voting among options to be offered in amendments being sent to cabinet soon

Democracy Monument in Bangkok is lit up against the night sky. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Democracy Monument in Bangkok is lit up against the night sky. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The referendum law is being amended in six areas, with electronic votes now being permitted, and the first round of the referendum on rewriting the constitution is expected towards the end of the year, according to the panel studying the issue.

The parliament-appointed committee has outlined six areas for amendment in a draft bill to be sent to the cabinet on May 28, said spokesman Nikorn Chamnong.

First, the referendum will be held on the same day as either a general election or a local election in the event that new MPs or local administrative organisation members are needed.

Second, voting by mail, electronic voting or voting by other means is permitted. A constituency may use a combination of voting methods.

Third, a referendum must achieve a majority vote based on the nationwide voter turnout, not the number of eligible voters. The majority vote must also exceed the number of “no result” votes.

Fourth, the Election Commission (EC) is required to permit equal and unhindered expression of views by people supporting or opposing the referendum. In the previous referendum arranged by the military regime in 2016, opponents complained their views were suppressed.

Fifth, the EC reserves the right to designate the entire country as a single constituency or create separate constituencies along provincial or district lines, with votes to be pooled and tallied later.

Sixth, votes for the referendum and the general or local election will be cast at the same polling stations.

Mr Nikorn said he believed the cabinet would approve the amendments and forward the bill to parliament in time for its first ordinary session on June 18.

Once in parliament, the bill will be scrutinised within 45 days.

“I think it will proceed without a hitch because both the government and opposition are on the same page over the proposed amendments,” he said.

The bill is likely to sail through its second and third, or final, readings, at the end of July before the legislation is presented to the Senate for consideration for about a month.

“We’re looking at the work in parliament wrapping up in August,” Mr Nikorn said.

After the bill is enacted, the EC will decide on the referendum date and announce the referendum question pre-approved by the cabinet.

The first of three rounds could take place before the end of the year.

The first referendum will ask voters whether they agree with writing a new charter. If the majority agrees, the second will ask if Section 256 should be amended to allow for the drafting of a new charter.

Once a new charter has been produced, the government will hold a third referendum, asking voters to decide whether it should be adopted.

However, Mr Nikorn insisted the timeline remains tentative at this point even though the process is being expedited.

He said he was confident a new constitution would be promulgated before the government’s time in office ends in less than four years.

He also suggested a separate referendum be held on the question of whether chapters 1 and 2 of the charter should be changed.

Chapter 1 defines Thailand as a single, indivisible kingdom with a democratic regime and the King as head of state, while Chapter 2 contains sections about royal prerogatives.

Do you like the content of this article?