PDRC win in Senate hands
Analysis: Last functioning legislator can confer legitimacy
Calls by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) for the Senate to be engaged in breaking the political impasse indicate how significant the role of the Upper House, especially its speaker, is to the success or failure of the group’s struggle.
Without the House of Representatives and parliament president in charge of parliamentary affairs, the Senate is the only functioning legislator. The PDRC is counting on the institution to invoke Section 7 of the charter and nominate an interim prime minister for royal endorsement, a move it believes will lend legitimacy to the group’s call.
Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, former rector of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida), said the PDRC has come up with the proposal because the group wants to ensure its campaign for political reform sticks to the charter.
He said the PDRC considers the Senate the only functioning legislator that can solve the crisis and it has been careful with its approach in order not to stir up accusations it is calling for unconstitutional changes.
However, it remains to be seen if the Senate will live up to anti-government protesters’ expectations.
Deputy Senate Speaker Surachai Liangboonlertchai, who was elected last Friday, yesterday rose to the occasion as he hosted an informal discussion among senators to find a solution to the crisis.
Mr Surachai is also supposed to meet university rectors, business sector representatives, political parties and military representatives.
A source in the Group of 40 Senators said Mr Surachai is determined to see the country through the crisis.
He decided not to resign as the first deputy Senate Speaker when he contested the Senate Speaker post last Friday.
Mr Surachai could not take a chance with the caretaker government, which might try to stall his appointment.
So far, acting caretaker prime minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisarn said he would not submit Mr Surachai’s appointment for royal endorsement until it is reviewed by the Council of State out of concern the selection process might be unlawful.
“He doesn’t care if his nomination will be submitted for royal endorsement. Today he serves as an acting Senate Speaker,” the source said.
However, the source said the appointment of an interim prime minister and Section 7 will not be raised for discussion for the time being.
The focus will be the political crisis and the need for all sides to help find a solution.
“All parties should be made aware there is a political crisis that needs to be solved,” said the source.
Mr Surachai has reportedly sent his representatives to talk to Mr Suthep and explain the limitations, including why the Senate cannot act to break the impasse within three days as demanded by the PDRC.
Appointed senator Somchai Sawaengkarn has expressed confidence in Mr Surachai’s commitment to lift the country out of the political crisis.
He said the acting Senate Speaker is a widely respected figure in legal circles, even though the man is little known in the political arena.
Nakharin Mektrairat, a political scientist at Thammasat University, welcomed Mr Surachai’s role, saying both parties involved in the political conflict have reached a dead end, so Mr Surachai should be given a try.
He said Mr Surachai was elected as Senate Speaker with more than 90 votes of support out of 150 senators.
Overwhelming support, from both the elected and appointed senators, means he has a good chance of finding consensus.
However, he said the acting Senate Speaker has to proceed with care because the Senate also has limited powers.
“All sides must understand we have a crisis.
To go ahead with the election, we have to ask if the Election Commission is ready to risk another failed election.”