Charter drafters open PM seat to outsider
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Charter drafters open PM seat to outsider

Representatives of 37 political parties are briefed by the Constitution Drafting Committee on its objectives to overhaul the election and political systems in a meeting at parliament on Feb 16, 2015. - Thanarak Khoonton
Representatives of 37 political parties are briefed by the Constitution Drafting Committee on its objectives to overhaul the election and political systems in a meeting at parliament on Feb 16, 2015. - Thanarak Khoonton

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) narrowly endorsed a proposal under the new constitution to allow the appointment of a non-elected, "outsider" prime minister, who would be appointed only to defuse "political crises".

Of all 36 charter drafters, 31 attended a meeting Thursday to draw up provisions for the new charter. The majority of them, or 17, voted in favour of the proposal.

They also concluded that the appointment of an outsider premier would require more than half of the support from MPs, including those from the opposition, and that the tenure of the appointed prime minister would be limited to only two years.

CDC spokesman Kamnoon Sitthisamarn said the constitution drafters believed that MPs under the new constitution would still nominate a prime minister candidate from among themselves first rather than a non-MP outsider to avoid public resistance.

However, the CDC agreed that the new charter should open a channel for a non-elected prime minister to step in to solve political crises, Mr Kamnoon said.

On Wednesday, the CDC endorsed a provision under the new charter to allow a prime minister to dissolve the House of Representatives if the government loses a no-confidence debate.

The CDC also approved the mixed member proportional (MMP) representation system.

Under the MMP system, there is no minimum-vote ceiling required for each party to gain a constituency MP, which allows small parties the chance to win parliamentary representation, one of the hallmarks of MMP.

However, critics of the MMP system said it would weaken the main political parties and lead to smaller parties which are likely to switch political allegiance and destabilise coalition governments.

CDC member Banjerd Singkhaneti said future governments under the MMP system would likely be coalition ones, which are prone to instability because small and medium parties would have more bargaining power under the new system.

Therefore, the CDC has come up with provisions under the new charter to maintain the stability of coalition governments.

First, in the event the opposition wins a no-confidence vote against the government, the House of Representatives must be dissolved.

Under previous charters, a government defeat in a no-confidence vote would lead to the resignation of the government.

Second, under the new charter, the prime minister can propose a no-confidence motion to the House, and a vote of no-confidence would be taken within seven days.

This measure is intended to end conflicts and disputes among coalition parties, and to send a signal to them that the prime minister is prepared to dissolve the House unless they stop quarrelling, Mr Banjerd said.

Third, under the new charter, the prime minister can decide which legislative bills are significant and require endorsement by the House.

When those bills are tabled to the House, the opposition is given only 48 hours to decide whether to propose a no-confidence motion against the government over the bills.

If the opposition does not propose a no-confidence motion within 48 hours, the bills are deemed to be passed by the House, Mr Banjerd said.

He said the measures are designed to safeguard the coalition government's stability and to prevent coalition parties from breaking ranks.

Some coalition parties may bargain for benefits in exchange for their support for passage of important bills sponsored by the government, he added.

Mr Banjerd also said the CDC has also approved a proposal to allow the Senate to propose legislation under the new charter.

Under the new charter, at least 40 senators must sign to support a bill they want to propose, Mr Banjerd said.

However, former deputy prime minister and key Pheu Thai Party figure, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, lambasted the proposal for a non-elected prime minister.

Mr Surapong said the constitution drafters are not MPs representing the people, and are showing bias against politicians, adding it will be difficult for the new rules under the new charter to gain recognition from other countries.


PATTAYA - The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) on Thursday approved a provision that will open the position of prime minister to both MPs and outsiders.

In a closed-door session in Pattaya, the charter drafters on Thursday debated the controversial issue of how the qualifications of a prime minister were to be specified in the new constitution.

The 2007 charter, which was abolished in the coup last year, reserved the prime ministerial position only for those gaining office through a general election.

But the drafters finally agreed to adjust the wording to accommodate a non-elected person being allowed to become the country's leader.

CDC spokesman Khamnoon Sitthisamarn said there were divisions among the drafters on the issue. One camp wanted to allow an outsider as premier only if the country faced a political crisis that needed someone special to end the impasse. Another group did not want any conditions attached to a non-MP premier.

The majority favoured no conditions for an outsider to be prime minister, Mr Khamnoon said.

The CDC comprises 36 people, but only 31 attended the meeting on Thursday. The others were reportedly tied up with other arrangements.

A source in the meeting said 17 of the 31 drafters agreed to no conditions for a non-MP as premier.

The minority argued that without conditions imposed on outsiders, the new charter would be seen as an attempt to allow those who do not come from elections to extend their stay in power, the source added.

Mr Khamnoon said the panel remained confident that inviting an outsider to lead a government would be the last resort. The majority in the meeting believed that MPs ''will select a prime minister who is an elected person first so that they could 'explain' to the public", he said.

The draft charter allows for a prime minister to stay in power for no more than two consecutive terms with a chance to come back after taking a political break.

The CDC has until April 17 to finish the first draft of the new charter and forward it to the National Reform Council (NRC). The NRC is required to finish its consideration of the draft by April 26.

Pheu Thai Party member Surapong Tovichakchaikul slammed the CDC decision on the premiership issue, saying the move reflected the drafters' negative attitude towards MPs.

"If MPs are that bad, it's better not to have them at all," he said.

Mr Surapong warned of the consequences should a new charter aimed at crippling elected politicians be approved by the NRC.

''At the end of the day a charter will be eventually endorsed by the NRC. But confidence will not be restored and the international community will not accept it,'' he said.

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