Keep fighting for change, Nitirat says

Keep fighting for change, Nitirat says

Worachet warns court ruling will prolong tussle

The government and its MPs should reaffirm their democratic rights by continuing with the charter amendment despite the Constitution Court's ruling, says a leader of the Nitirat Group.

Worachet Pakeerut said the Constitution Court's ruling yesterday, scrapping a section of the amendment on the composition of the Senate already approved by parliament, will prolong the tussle between conservative and progressive forces in society.

The law lecturer at Thammasat University holds the personal view that the court has no right to halt the charter rewrite, which he considers is part of the democratic duty of elected parliamentarians. The court decided yesterday the government-sponsored amendment of the charter in a section dealing with the origin of the Senate was unconstitutional both in terms of procedure and content.

The court said parliament did not adhere to the proper procedures required in amending the constitution. Also, the amendment, which seeks to have only elected senators instead of both elected and appointed ones as specified in the current version, will undermine the checks-and-balances mechanism. The court, however, stopped short of ordering a dissolution of the coalition parties involved in the amendment and stripping the political status of the MPs who supported it.

Mr Worachet said the ruling showed the court reaffirming its role in counter-balancing the ongoing process of progressive democratisation.

He said the tug-of-war between these forces will carry on for a few more years until other means such as a popular uprising force a change.

Mr Worachet said the red shirts, who support the Pheu Thai government, are unlikely to make any radical moves as the court did not order the party to be dissolved as many had feared.

However, he challenged the Pheu Thai Party executives, the prime minister and self-exiled leader Thaksin Shinawatra to make a bold move and reassert their rights despite the court's ruling.

He suggested parliament ignore the ruling. It can simply wait for the King to either endorse the amendment or return the bill untouched.

"If parliament believes firmly this section has to be amended they should hold another vote. If more than two-thirds of the MPs vote to accept it, the amendment will be complete. If not, the amendment will be dumped," he said. He also urged parliament to continue voting to pass the rest of the charter amendment, section by section.

Prinya Tevanaruemitrkul, also a law lecturer at Thammasat University, said the court ruling could have an impact on constitutional amendments in the future.

Every charter change could be deemed to contravene the constitution because it represents a change to the existing charter, he said.

Asked whether Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra should take responsibility following the ruling, Mr Prinya said the prime minister did what was required by the constitution, submitting the draft amendment which was approved by parliament to the King for endorsement. Otherwise, it must be proven that she abused her authority.

Those who should have to take responsibility are the MPs who voted improperly in place of other ones, he said.

Mr Prinya said it is possible the government will wait until 90 days after the prime minister has submitted the draft to the King for endorsement. But it would be difficult for the government to reaffirm the draft if the King does not endorse it.

Trakool Meechai, Chulalongkorn University's assistant professor of political science, said what happens now depends on the government, the Pheu Thai Party and the red shirts.

"The government would be committing suicide if it insists on re-submitting the 'unconstitutional' amendment draft," Mr Trakool said.

He said the ruling could spark a renewed confrontation among protest rivals.

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